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Hunger in Vermont? The numbers are staggering
by Margo Callaghan
Sitting down with Bob Maritano, Food Drive Coordinator for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf (CEFS) equates to completing a three-credit college course on the subject of fee=ding Vermont’s hungry. For the past 21 years, Maritano has spread the gospel on the plight of getting food to the people who need it in the area. “Studies say that 250 to 300 billion pounds of food are wasted annually in this country. That’s 170 trillion calories,” Maritano reported. Or put another way, he would have you imagine the scene of the Super Bowl stadium, filled not with football fans, but with cans and boxes of food. Fill it to the brim, and then repeat it every day for an entire year. That is the amount of food wasted in the United States annually as, at the same time, other government studies determine that 18 percent of children 15 years old and younger live in poverty and under a condition termed “food insecurity”- their household does not have a secure source for assuring there will be food available to eat tomorrow.
These daunting statistics are not very much different in our Green Mountain State. Maritano supplied that, conservatively, 13,500 people are served by CEFS each year, of which 35 percent are children under 18. The following programs are offered under the umbrella of CEFS:
The Food Shelf offers a monthly five day supply of groceries to families in need. This includes fresh produce and breads, some of which is donated by local markets, such as Shelburne Supermarket.
The Soup Kitchen is Chittenden County’s largest source of meals for the homeless and others in need, serving breakfast six days a week in addition to a Sunday dinner.
Community Kitchen offers culinary job training for unemployed and under employed individuals. The intensive 14-week course, offered in partnership with the Vermont Foodbank, pairs professional chefs in the area with those seeking sustainable careers in the food service industry.
Homebound Grocery Delivery brings five days of groceries to seniors, and people with physical disabilities that can’t get to the Food Shelf.
Brown Bag Lunches makes a nutritious lunch available to children from low income households during the summer months when school lunch programs are not available.
Project Angel Food provides the means for local markets to donate leftover prepared foods for distribution to social service agencies and hunger relief programs in the area. (Students from the CEFS Community Kitchen program also work with these foods to prepare other nutritious menu options for local food organizations.
Ways to help CEFS in their mission to feed the hungry in our area
Many of the programs through CEFS run on donated non-perishable foods from community food drives. Besides these donations, though, the food shelf relies on monetary donations to keep running. “Every dollar donated buys three pounds of food. We have a great conversion rate,” offers Bob Maritano, from the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. It is through the relationship CEFS has established with local vendors, wholesalers, and food sources such as Burlington’s Intervale and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, that donated funds to be stretched far. Besides securing funds for food, these dollars are used to purchase everyday supplies, like silverware, dish soap, and cookware/equipment for the Soup Kitchen.
The CEFS also seeks donations in the form of securities: donated stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Likewise, naming CEFS as beneficiary of insurance policies and /or wills is a generous option for individuals to secure a source for feeding Vermonters well into the future.
Volunteers are always needed to keep the many programs offered by CEFS going: from the stocking of shelves and delivery of groceries, to the serving of hot meals and record keeping. The need is great. For more information, contact CEFS at 658-7939.
Maritano is available to speak to groups — whether civil organizations or classrooms, on the mission and needs of CEFS in helping feed the hungry. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first “Mini Kwini” golf outing is fore food shelf
Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf history
In 1974, community churches and synagogues pooled their resources to address the needs of hungry neighbors throughout Chittenden County. The result: The Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Initially, the Food Shelf was housed in one small room staffed by one person assisted by volunteers, who distributed a three-day supply of groceries to families once a month as a Grocery Distribution Program.
In 1978, the Food Shelf became a program of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO), whose mission is “the elimination of poverty in the midst of plenty.” Later, in 1982, the Food Shelf also became a member agency of the United Way. In response to the greater demand for hunger relief services, CEFS moved to a bigger location that had access to a kitchen and began serving a hot breakfast every weekday.
CEFS relocated twice to larger sites, including its 1994 move into its current location. This new facility was built through the RELIEF Capital Campaign, which raised money to build or renovate three buildings for use by five social services agencies in Burlington.
To further meet the growing demand for hunger relief services, the Food Shelf implemented the Homebound Delivery Program in January 1998.