September is Hunger Action Month. One in four Vermonters needs help to put food on their tables.
Tuesday, Vermont Food Bank delivered thousands of pounds of food to Barre City Elementary and Middle Schools.
Robin Paige spends her days serving lunch at the schools. After school Tuesday, it’s time for her to get served.
“I think it’s important for our families to eat right,” said Paige, a school cafeteria worker.
Every two weeks, the Vermont Food Bank delivers up to 8,000 pounds of fresh produce to schools, including Barre City.
“It’s a huge deal. Vegetables are very expensive at the store. We are on a budget. It’s really that important for us to have it every 2 weeks,” said Paige.
It’s part of the Food Bank’s “Veggie Van Go” program, which brings food to hospitals, housing sites and five schools.
“The first criteria is the schools with the largest number of students who get free school meals,” said John Sayles, Vermont Food Bank CEO. “So we’re trying to find schools where there’s a big need. We also want to be geographically dispersed so we want to make sure that we’re hitting all the different parts of the state.”
The other schools are in Winooski, Rutland, Brattleboro and Bennington.
Sayles says the organization serves 153,000 people a year.
“It’s still really challenging for people to make ends meet. Rents are going up particularly and people’s incomes are not going up. So we’re feeding as many people but sometimes it’s different people,” he said.
“It’s a huge issue here,” said Pam Burt.
Pam Burt organizes the Barre City Schools’ backpack program, which sends nutritious food home with at least 16% of the student body.
“We all go through times of need and the nice thing about this program is that you take what you need for your family. We don’t tell anybody that’s enough,” she said.
Not only do folks get to take home the fresh food, but they get a recipe too.
“It’s always good to get them some ideas,” said Sara Whitehair, with the Vermont Food Bank. “We try to open the conversation up to them too and say ‘how do you like to eat rutabagas if you’ve had them before,’ or ‘how do you like to eat your cabbage?'”
VSECU was at Tuesday’s food delivery.
It recently donated $40,000 to the Vermont Food Bank, bringing its total donations to $200,000 in the last 5 years.