Nonprofit Interview: Vermont Foodbank | Jobs In ME
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Nonprofit Interview: Vermont Foodbank

By: Margaret Hansen

Philip H. Brown was the first quarter employer winner of JobsInVT.com's Live Work Give contest, where Vermont job seekers and employers are picked to select their favorite Vermont nonprofit charity, who will, in turn, receive a $500 donation from JobsInVT.com. Philip works for St. Johnsbury Health & Rehab.

Congratulations to Philip and the nonprofit he selected: Vermont Foodbank. I recently interviewed Vermont Foodbank's Director of Communications and Public Affairs Judith Stermer to learn about Vermont's largest hunger-relief organization, what they do for the community and how people can help.

"The Vermont Foodbank is a very worthy organization. Vermont is the 10th hungriest state in the U.S. and hunger is such a broad-based problem. The Vermont Foodbank is the area agency that addresses this problem."

- Philip H. Brown on behalf of St. Johnsbury Health & Rehab

Lately, I've heard of the term "food-insecure," what does it mean to be food-insecure?

Judith Stermer, Vermont Food Bank: Food insecurity, as defined by the USDA, means that consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.

How many Vermonters are in this group?

JS: In Vermont, nearly 90,000 people are considered food insecure by the USDA.

Is hunger something that families just live with, hesitating to reach out for help?

JS: The Vermont Foodbank serves as many as 86,000 Vermonters in need. We know that while we are serving many Vermonters in need, some of our neighbors in need are not receiving the food they need.

How much worse is the problem of hunger now than maybe a few years ago?

JS: During the last five years, the Vermont Foodbank has seen a steady increase in the numbers of Vermonters requesting food assistance. New families, children and seniors, who before the economic down turn were able to make ends meet, are now requesting food assistance from food shelves and meal sites around the state.

How many Vermonters do you serve on a weekly basis?

JS: Each week, 8,200 Vermonters will request food assistance at food shelves, meals sites, senior centers, shelters and after-school programs in Vermont.

Who is the Vermont Foodbank's typical client?

JS: The face of hunger looks like our neighbor, the school bus driver, the teller at the bank. In Vermont, hunger is happening to one in seven of our neighbors. We serve working Vermonters, children, elderly, single men and women, college graduates, families and many others.

How does the Vermont Foodbank stay operating in a healthy manner?

JS: The Vermont Foodbank is always looking for ways serve our community in a more effective and efficient way. The evaluation of programs is key to our success. And communicating the impact of our work and the work of our network of more than 270 network partners is also important in securing funding and support from the community. Vermonters understand that food is a right and not a privilege and we are fortunate that Vermonters support the work of the Foodbank generously year after year.

What simple things can Vermonters do to make a difference in the lives of people, perhaps even neighbors, who are hungry?

JS: Volunteer your time. Make a donation of money. Advocate for programs that help end hunger in Vermont.

What are Food Shelves and how do they work?

JS: Food shelves are direct service organizations. The Foodbank provides food shelves around Vermont with the food they need for their clients.

Can you give a little information about some of your other programs you wish to highlight to let people know what they're all about?

  1. BackPack Program: On weekends and out of school time, the Vermont Foodbank provides food for school aged children. During the 2012-13 school year, the Foodbank is working with 16 schools and 700 students.
  2. Gleaning: The Vermont Foodbank is committed to improving access to fresh healthy produce for Vermonters who need food assistance. Gleaning is the act of harvesting excess or unmarketable produce from a farm. This act of rescuing food allows the Foodbank to gather and distribute as much as 400,000 pounds of fresh, local produce each year throughout the state.
  3. 3SquaresVT outreach: 3SquaresVT (formerly Food Stamps) is our first defense against hunger and allows low income Vermonters funds to purchase food at grocery stores and farmers markets around the state. This year, the Foodbank started helping our clients access the 3SquaresVT program through application assistance at food shelves around the state.
  4. Community Kitchen Academy: Community Kitchen Academy (CKA) prepares underemployed and unemployed Vermonters for a career in the food service industry and lifelong learning through an intensive program of culinary skills development, career readiness and job placement. Students actively develop and apply new skills by creating wholesome meals for those at risk of hunger, using food that has been gathered from within our communities that may otherwise go to waste.

How can people help your organization?

JS: Every action, big or small is important in the fight against hunger. Please consider one of the following: Volunteer your time. Make a donation of money. Advocate for programs that help end hunger in Vermont. Learn more about all of this at VTFoodbank.org.

Fact: For every dollar donated, the Vermont Foodbank can provide three meals to those in need.

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Margaret Hansen has been writing professionally since receiving a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She has worked for multiple organizations as a weekly newspaper reporter, a weekly newspaper editor, and in a variety of internal/external marketing communications roles. Her freelance career has focused on writing and editing for print, email and web publications in the employment industry, as well as manuscript editing and resume writing.