Barre, VT – Even before flooding started in Vermont back in July, the state was going through a hunger crisis. But in the wake of the natural disaster, hunger relief organizations statewide are now seeing near record-high demand.

That includes the Vermont Foodbank, the state’s largest anti-hunger organization. Carrie Stahler, a public affairs officer with the foodbank, says during a typical month, the foodbank sends out roughly 800,000 pounds of food and drinks to local food pantries statewide. However, in the one-month period following Vermont’s major flooding on July 10, Stahler says the foodbank distributed roughly 1.3 million pounds of food, an increase of half-a-million pounds. She says that’s a monthly amount similar to what the foodbank was doling out at the peak of the pandemic.

“What this disaster has really meant over the course of the past month-and-a-half is just that there is a much higher need for food across the state,” Stahler said. “Compared to the month before flooding happened and the month after, 45-percent more food has moved through our facilities.”

Fortunately, the sudden and sharp uptick in demand has also led to an increase in donations. Stahler says many of the foodbank’s partner organizations are stepping up to the plate and sending extra food for free.

Among those organizations was a small meat company in Tewksbury, Massachusetts called Walden Local Meat Co.

Nancy Pak, the company’s CEO, says her workers were adamant about helping flood victims, and in early August, they donated 500 pounds of ground beef to the Vermont Foodbank.

“It’s the first thing they thought of when they read about the storms,” Pak said, referring to her team. “It’s not, ‘How much rainfall fell?’, and you know, even road damage … It’s, ‘Do people have food?'”

Although 500 pounds of food is only a fraction of the 1.3 million Vermont Foodbank is pushing out every month, Stahler says donations like that are making a huge difference, and Walden Local Meat’s donation was particularly important since protein is in higher demand than any other food.

“We wanted to make sure it was significant enough to help provide protein when it’s so necessary and so scarce at times,” Pak said.

Stahler says it only took the Vermont Foodbank a week-and-a-half to ship out all the meat Walden Local donated, and it was sent to various food pantries along with other frozen food items.

Stahler adds that while the donations have been great, they know their partner organizations can’t continue making generous contributions every month to help them meet the increased demand. She says if demand continues to hover around 1.3 million pounds of food per month, the foodbank might have to look to state officials for additional help.