Food insecurity is a real issue in the valley
Jan 23, 2014 | 2369 views | 0 0 comments | 1206 1206 recommendations | email to a friend | print
To the Editor,

As many of you read in the paper last week, the Whitingham-Halifax Lions Club along with the help of the Deerfield Valley Rotary delivered groceries to 135 families this year. Food insecurity is a real issue that the Lions take very seriously. According to the Hunger Free Vermont organization (a state-wide nonprofit dedicated to providing nutrition education and programs), in Windham county alone, one in five children is food insecure. Further statistics show that nearly half of grade school and high school students in our area are eligible for free or reduced price meals, and out of those students, 57% are participating in school breakfast. It doesn’t stop there. There are after-school programs offering food, summer food sites, child care centers getting food aid, as well as programs delivering or serving meals to our seniors-all in addition to those receiving state food aid. This is alarming! There has been a 9% increase in food assistance since 2011 in our county alone and household food insecurity has increased 45% since 2000 in the state of Vermont. Times are definitely tough and these numbers are proof.

I think for me, organizing, ordering, packing, and delivering $12,000 worth of food this year was a real wake-up call. We are putting a nice comfy band-aid on the issue during the holidays and love that we can help, but again, it’s just a Band-Aid. What can we do to better aid this problem? How can we help more? This is always the question that follows our program. I’ve recently contacted the Hunger Free Vermont organization and hope to get some answers. The Masons have also contacted us and are hoping to help. This is going to be a communitywide effort and awareness is definitely the first step! Until then, I have some very special companies and people I’d like to thank for their support this past year! Without help and support from others, it would be nearly impossible to pull off such a communitywide feat.

Many thanks to TransCanada, the Vermont Food Bank, Brattleboro Subaru, Twice Blessed, Windham Sailing Club, Dawson-Macdonald, Hogback Gift Shop, Bartleby’s Bookstore, Brattleboro Food Co-op, BJ’s Wholesalers, Home Depot in Greenfield, MA, Dr. Ruhl for the great tooth-care products, Wal-Mart, and Stone Puddles for the excellent packing and delivering location this year. Many thanks to all of the special folks who wish to remain anonymous who helped me gather recipients this year too; it takes a lot of time filling out recipient information and checking and rechecking for accuracy. Again, thank you so much! I’d like to thank my stellar committee members too! Without teamwork (and many late nights!), this program would flop!

Additionally, I’d especially like to thank the Deerfield Valley Rotary for being as passionate as we are at helping serve the area and also for their continued financial support. Without the increased man-power, we’d never be able to serve eight towns. Thank you all so much! Here’s hoping for awareness in the New Year and for better solutions to help pull our county out of these devastating statistics!

For those who would like to donate or volunteer with our next program, our PO box is 367 in Jacksonville, Vermont, 05342. You can always donate to the excellent nonprofit, Hunger Free Vermont, too: 38 Eastwood Drive, Suite 100, South Burlington, VT 05403.

Jennifer Betit-Engel

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