As the cold approaches and more people need emergency assistance, the Vermont Foodbank says it will be requesting base funding from the legislature this upcoming session.
The Vermont Foodbank is the only food bank in Vermont. It has 225 network partners and works with 350 organizations across the state to distribute food in every county.
Inflation at the grocery store, rising utility bills, and the end of pandemic-era assistance; all reason why the Vermont Foodbank says demand for emergency food is growing, while food shelves are seeing more people come through their doors.
“Our system is the social safety net, we’re at the end,” says Carrie Stahler, the government and public affairs officer with the Vermont Foodbank. “Our job is to make sure people don’t go hungry, and that’s sometimes the last stop.”
“The need is increasing, there are so many folks in our community that are food insecure,” says Anna McMahon, the Associate Director of Feeding Chittenden.
Stahler says because of this, the Vermont Foodbank is asking for help from the legislature this session to support food access throughout the state. It’s asking for $2 million in the budget adjustment process earlier in 2024, in hopes of getting the funding quicker. It’s also asking for another $3 million in the regular fiscal year 2025 budget process, asking for $5 million in total.
“I think the legislature has done a really great job, yet we’re still seeing this need,” says Stahler.
She notes when federal pandemic assistance ran out, the demand for food resources went up.
Stahler says, “we really view that funding support as a part of the state’s responsibility to continue to help us feed our neighbors.”
This year, the Vermont Foodbank was given $3 million in one-time funding. “The reason we’re asking for more funding this year is complicated, and that’s the challenge,” says Stahler. “Our partners are seeing a much higher need, more people coming through their doors.”
“Usually when people are deciding how they’re going to pay for everything, whether that’s medical bills, or childcare, or rent, food is usually the first thing that gets cut,” explains McMahon.
Burlington’s Feeding Chittenden, along with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s other food pantries in Middlebury and St. Albans, are currently seeing a higher demand. Feeding Chittenden’s food shelf is serving around 250 people a day right now, according to McMahon, and expecting to see up to 700 people daily when it starts distributing holiday foods.
“We’re going to begin distributing turkeys and holiday sides next Wednesday. Right now we don’t have enough turkeys or food to go around,” says McMahon.
Feeding Chittenden has a number of food access and other resources to benefit the community, but officials remain unsure if their food supply will meet the demand. McMahon notes the organization also launched a Holidays without Hunger campaign which aims to serve 10,000 families this holiday season.
“It’s our hope that folks by using our services, are able to use their money to pay their rent and stay in the housing that’s available to them, because that helps people not need to use assistance in other ways,” says Stahler.
Stahler hopes the requested funding would create flexibility within the Vermont Foodbank to continue to do the “necessary work.”