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will blog for food vt

The Vermont Foodbank is the largest hunger-relief charity in Vermont and for the last 23 years has been serving food insecure Vermonters through a network of food shelves, meal sites, shelters, senior centers and after-school programs. These are our exper

Updated: 2018-03-05T10:19:18.969-08:00


Our Blog Has Moved


Irene Flood Relief


You can keep up on the latest Vermont flood recovery information on and on . Also, to help sustain the Vermont Foodbank's response, you can text FOODNOW to 52000 for a $10 donation to the Vermont Foodbank. We can turn that $10 into $60 of food at retail cost! You can donate at our website

Over 200 roads and bridges compeletly washed away. Whole towns isolated for days with food and water being dropped in by helicopter. Hundreds of homes completely destroyed and thousands flooded. Libraries, offices and businesses out of commission for the foreseable future. Vermont this week has literally seen a disaster.

As a statewide organization with a delivery network and partners in every county, the Vermont Foodbank is part of the recovery network. We are part of the state's emergency recovery plan, and are in constant contact with Vermont Emergency Management and FEMA. During the first reponse phase, the Foodbank responds to any requests by VEM or FEMA for assistance. The recovery phase, which is beginning now, is where the Foodbank's efforts get into high gear.

The immediate response to this devastation has been overwhelming. The Foodbank has 15 additional truckloads of food and cleaning supplies ariving over the next week to meet the increased need. Donations from Hannaford, Shaw's, C&S Grocers, Sodexho, and national manufacturers will help restock food shelves in the hardest hit areas. A number of food shelves and meal sites have lost everything - their buildings, food, refrigerators and freezers. We are gearing up to replace infrastructure and keep our partners stocked as they provide comfort to their local communities.

Businesses stepping up include Seventh Generation, Merchant's Bank, Gardners Supply and the August 1st Bakery and Cafe in Burlington, which is baking 200 loaves of bread and delivering them to the Community Cupboard food shelf in Rutland. Food banks in New England are also reaching out. The Good Shepard Food Bank in Maine has sent a truck, driver and warehouse supervisor to our Brattleboro Distribution Center for a few days to assist in moving the additional food and supplies to the hardest hit areas of the state. FoodShare in Connecticut is bringing up some prepared meals to Brattleboro also.

The biggest challenge, however, is on the horizon. It is sustaining this effort past the flurry of respone, into the long recovery phase.

Food shelves in hard-hit areas that were normally open one day a week or one day a month are now open every day or several times a week. This will continue for weeks and months, long past the media's attention span. The Foodbank does not receive state or federal money to provide food and other support to food shelves and meal sites across the state. We need your support to continue the effort. Please consider a donation the your Vermont Foodbank. You can give at our website, Thank you.

Listen to what they are NOT saying.



Policy Doesn't Create Jobs, Businesses Do


Here are some interesting ideas about creating jobs from Joe Nocera in the August 16th New York Times.

USDA food amount below last year


This is no time for the federal government to be reducing the food available to food banks nationwide, but that is just what's happening. See the update below:

Update on Recent TEFAP Purchases

Feeding America learned last week that USDA is making $50 million available for the purchase of a variety of canned, frozen, and fresh fruits and vegetables and juices. These products will be distributed through TEFAP and will have estimated delivery dates betweek September 2011 and March 2012. Each state will be provided with their fair share of funding, and will be able to order from a menu of products which include tomato sauce, corn, carrots, green beans, peaches, pears, cranberry juice, orange juice, blueberries, potatoes, and oranges. This purchase is being made to satisfy a requirement in the 2012 Farm Bill that USDA purchase $401 million worth of "specialty crops" (i.e., fruits and vegetables) in FY2011.

. . . [M]uch more help is going to be needed to shore up supplies of TEFAP commoditeis nationwide. The inclusion of these products brings total FY11 spending on TEFAP up to $360 million. However, that still level of spending is still approximately $295 million -- or 45% -- below the FY2010 spending level.

A Letter to the First Lady


A letter to first lady Michelle Obama Written byMelissa Pasanen, Correspondent|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE 8:02 AM, Jun. 30, 2011Dear Mrs. Obama, Last spring, I spent a couple hours at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf observing people pick up their weekly allowance of groceries.It was not the first time I’d been to a food shelf during a decade of writing about food and agriculture for this newspaper and other publications, but I was struck that particular visit by the number of children accompanying their parents. There was a 4-year-old who ran over and picked up a box of corn flakes, hugging it to his chest, and a little girl with huge eyes who stayed shyly glued to her mother’s side. A tow-headed boy stood in front of the fresh fruits and vegetables. After his mom gave him the go-ahead, he carefully selected one apple and one orange and placed them in his family’s box. In anticipation of your visit to Vermont today and your high-profile “Let’s Move” program against childhood obesity, I’ve been recalling images like these and reflecting on what I’ve seen, heard and learned in Vermont. Stories about food are rarely just about the food. Youngsters in healthy cooking classes slice and dice with the bravado of Food Network stars but might quietly add, as one teenager said, “My mom works a lot. Now I can help her.” A recently arrived refugee tending a community gardening plot looks at her bright-eyed toddler and says, “When my children eat the food I bring home from the garden, I feel comfortable because I farmed it and I know where it comes from.” A dad in a homeless shelter takes a break from learning how to make a healthy Asian noodle dish and admits, “It’s hard to cook for your kids when you don’t have a home. We eat a lot of McDonald’s, Burger King and pizza.” Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that although they may seem like polar opposites, hunger and obesity are often evil twins, flip sides of the same problem. “Lack of access to healthy food is a major cause of both malnutrition and obesity,” says Marissa Parisi, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont, an education and advocacy organization working to end hunger and malnutrition. Although Vermont’s largely rural landscape may appear to be a land of plenty (especially in summer and fall), it also comes with a high cost of living, sometimes overwhelming transportation challenges and limited shopping options in small or remote communities, Parisi says. Ironically, just like in the urban inner city, it is often easier and cheaper to buy a bag of chips than a bunch of fresh carrots. On the plus side, we could probably grow enough carrots to go around. Vermont has the highest per capita number of organic farmers and food processors of any state, as well as the highest number of community-supported agriculture farms and farmers markets per capita. But, as you know, it takes work to ensure that everyone has access to those carrots — from the senior living alone, to the mother who told me she hates asking for help but acknowledged that the food shelf is a lifeline at the end of a hard month. Vermont also has more than the average number of dedicated, creative people working hard to make fresh, minimally processed food more accessible to everyone. We now have a statewide gleaning program to salvage excess produce from farms and orchards, as well as other innovative partnerships such as a foodbank-owned farm and a food shelf-based food service training program in which unemployed and underemployed Vermonters learn marketable skills while also feeding the hungry. Our pioneering farm-to-school movement has helped facilitate and support change toward healthier offerings in school cafeterias around the state. It also holds a high-profile and totally rockin’ Junior Iron C[...]

Federal support for SNAP use at farmer's markets


Here is a letter from Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supporting funds for EBT machines at farmer's markets - a VT success that needs to go national.

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye
Senate Committee on Appropriations
Capitol, S-128
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Herb Kohl
Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Vice Chair
Senate Committee on Appropriations
Capitol, S-128
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Roy Blunt
Ranking Member
Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Inouye, Vice Chair Cochran, Chairman Kohl, and Ranking Member Blunt:

We appreciate the past support you have given to programs that bring farmers and consumers together, and urge you to increase the access of financially struggling families to healthy fresh foods by supporting the President’s request for $4million in the USDA Food and Nutrition Service budget to provide wireless point of sale Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) technology for farmers markets in Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Agriculture Appropriations.

Access to healthy locally grown food continues to increase for most Americans. Between 2009 and 2010 alone, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. grew by 16 percent, according to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, to more than 6,100 – the vast majority of which are hosted by nonprofits, municipalities, or other civic organizations. Unfortunately, access to healthy local products is limited for most SNAP beneficiaries. In 2010, only 0.012% of all SNAP benefits were redeemed at the 1,611 farmers market retailers authorized to accept them.

There are nearly 200,000 brick and mortar SNAP retailers which are supplied with free government supported EBT equipment, but farmers markets generally lack access to electricity and land lines, so cannot benefit from standard EBT equipment. Instead, most farmers markets must find alternative funding to cover the wireless technology, staffing, recordkeeping, and other administrative costs associated with offering SNAP as a service to their communities. This limits the ability of farmers markets to ensure that SNAP beneficiaries have access to the healthy fresh food they provide. With the cost of wireless devices having declined dramatically, the President’s requested $4 million for the purchase of wireless EBT machines for Farmer’s Markets is timely and economically reasonable.

The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 and corresponding SNAP regulations, have made it clear that all authorized SNAP retailers must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the EBT system at no cost. Funding the purchase of wireless EBT machines for farmers markets will ensure that the Department of Agriculture meets this requirement, and will ensure that the nation’s 43 million SNAP customers have healthy choices for their SNAP dollars.

We again urge you to include the President’s requested $4 million for wireless EBT in the FY12 Agriculture appropriations bill. This funding will provide point of sale terminals to all farmers’ markets nationally that cannot currently redeem SNAP benefits, and will help increase the redemption of SNAP benefits for healthy locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.

SNAP (food stamps) is Working as Designed


A nice column on how SNAP is working as designed.



The recent tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest and South are an unmitigated tragedy, and it is wonderful to see the offers of help and acts of kindness to alleviate the suffering of all those touched by the events. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost family and friends and the communities ravaged by storm and flood.

This is a time when everyone, regardless of political persuasion or philosophical bent looks to our federal government for assistance, and rightly so. Many people have been left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They may have lost their homes, businesses and jobs. The federal government steps in with emergency SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits, emergency housing benefits, unemployment benefits and grants and low interest loans to get small businesses and employers back on track as quickly as possible. There is no hand-wringing about budgets or deficits or debt ceilings. All we are concerned with is taking care of our neighbors.

The cold truth, however, is that personal disasters happen every day. People lose their jobs or their homes, become injured or ill, or suffer some other individual tragedy that sends their lives into a downward spiral. There are no newspaper headlines or donation hotlines for these tragedies, but our neighbors rely on those same federal programs to keep them going until they can get back on their feet.

We all need to be aware that many federal and state government safety net programs need to be there when one person needs them, as much as when a whole community needs them. Yet there is considerable uncertainty about funding levels for food and nutrition and other safety net programs in the federal budget. It is neither fair nor just for a country like ours to allow hunger to exist. This country has the money, the food, the programs and the people necessary to make sure everyone is fed well. The only thing lacking is the political will. We will end hunger when we choose to,, and not before.

Ending hunger transforms lives, and can transform our society. Let’s make it happen.

Federal Budget Cutting and Hunger in Vermont


A popular meme these days is “budget cutting.” In Washington, D.C. it seem like they talk about nothing else. I have prepared many budgets over the past 10 years, and had to make some very hard choices, including for the past few years here at the Foodbank. As the steward of millions in donations the Vermont Foodbank has an obligation to know where every dollar goes, and to ensure that it contributes to the mission of seeing that no one in Vermont goes hungry. That is why when budgeting for the Foodbank we are always focused on the achieving the mission, the long-term financial health of the organization and effectively executing our programs. But the current budget cutting meme doesn’t seem to leave much room thoughtful reflection.

As I write this, budget cutting proposals in congress focus on 12% of the federal budget for all the cuts, and includes large reductions that will directly affect Vermont’s hungry. There are proposed reductions in SNAP benefits (called 3 Squares Vermont here and formerly food stamps) that will drive more people to food shelves and meal sites as their benefits run out sooner in the month. Community Service Block Grants are proposed to be cut in half. These federal grants support Vermont’s 5 community action agencies, 4 of which operate one or more food shelves in Vermont, including the states largest. The cuts could cause our community action agencies to scale back or even close the food shelf operations because they are largely funded with the flexible block grant funding. We are also facing a loss of USDA food and funds to food banks. Loss of all this support will leave a big whole in our communities. How big?

The charitable emergency food network that we run together cannot make up for the loss of strong federal safety net programs. The 3 Squares VT program distributed almost $11 million in benefits in December, 2010. Annualized, that’s more than $130 million last year. Over 90% of those benefits are spent locally within 30 days. Any reduction in that $130 million a year in federal food assistance transfers the burden to the charitable food system. In contrast, the Vermont Foodbank distributed more than $12 million dollars’ worth of food during all of 2010. Try as we might, we can’t possibly fill that gap.

And speaking of gaps, a recent study released by Feeding America, a national organization of over 200 food banks, looked at the “meal gap” in every county in the United States. It measures how many meals it will take so that everyone reports having enough food to eat for the whole family. According to the study, in Vermont over 82,000 of our neighbors are missing 13,745,000 meals per year. We would need to provide $41,440,980,00 worth of food to fill that gap. That would mean more than tripling our food distribution.

This country’s future economic prosperity depends on our people. People who are worried about how they will feed their families tomorrow cannot focus on being good employees, serving their country, being active in their communities or starting a business. A country looking to a strong future cannot afford to let its people go hungry and fall into despair and poverty.

That’s why I am asking for you to join with me and let our elected representatives, state and national leaders know that hunger is unacceptable in our communities, our state and our country.

Should we restrict what people buy with SNAP benefits?


This is an editorial written recently by me and Marissa Parisi, Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont that has appeared in the local press. I feel that this is an important topic, and one that can't be discussed too many times.
A recently-introduced resolution in the Vermont House has many of us in the anti-hunger community concerned about peoples’ understanding of the effectiveness and importance the 3SquaresVT program (nationally called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and formerly Food Stamps). 3SquaresVT currently serves over 90,000 of our neighbors – that is more than 1 in 7 Vermont households. Proponents suggest that 3SquaresVT dollars are “all too often” spent on foods with limited nutritional values. This perception is often backed up by anecdotes about how someone was seen buying food that doesn’t seem nutritious with their benefits. The reaction can be visceral, even if the intentions are good. But good public policy is not made based on anecdotes or good intentions; it is made based on facts. There is no research-based evidence that restricting what our neighbors can purchase with government benefits leads to improved health outcomes down the road. Research does show that 3SquaresVT participants make similar food choices to non-participants at all income levels. In fact, public health officials and physicians across the country support increasing participation in 3SquaresVT as an overall obesity-prevention strategy. Moreover, studies by both the USDA and Children’s Health Watch have shown that chronic hunger and food insecurity have much greater impacts on the health of our citizens than poor nutritional choices. Hunger and malnutrition increases the risk of poor health, obesity, academic failure, and developmental delays. 3SquaresVT decreases poor health and hospitalization among participants, especially among young children and elders. The food choices we all make are influenced by many things, but we all are susceptible to constant advertising, often for non-nutritious foods. We are fortunate because Vermont is way out front when it comes to the availability of local food and making healthy eating easier. We believe the Vermont way to encourage healthful food choices for our neighbors receiving 3SquaresVT is to support 3SquaresVT usage at more farmers’ markets and for CSA shares, offering incentives for fruit and vegetable purchases, enhancing nutrition education across the state and the nation, and improving benefit levels so people can afford more healthful foods. These changes would save scarce health care dollars and bring more federal dollars to our state and into the pockets of our farmers and food producers.

say sNO to hunger!


Vermont’s ski industry has a long-standing tradition of fostering community. Believe it or not, our ski industry creates more than 33,000 jobs each year . In light of this, it seems appropriate that several Vermont communities are built around their mountain resorts.

It is estimated that skiers and riders generate nearly $1.5 billion in economic activity annually —not a small sum for a state like Vermont. This number doesn’t account for the increase in property taxes and income from the skiers and riders that come to Vermont on a ski vacation, fall in love with its natural beauty and decide to make it home.

In the same way that Vermonters rally around their favorite winter sport, our ski resorts look out for our communities, and work to improve the quality of life for their employees and their loyal skiers and riders.

This month, Pico Mountain Resort is caring for their community by telling skiers and riders to say sNO to hunger. For every donation of $15 or more made to the Vermont Foodbank between March 1st and March 18th, Pico Mountain Resort will offer the donor a $20 lift ticket discount. Anyone who makes a donation of $100 or more will receive a free lift ticket. All donations should be made online here.

The folks at Pico know that 1 out of every 7 Vermonters struggles with hunger. They know that 25,000 Vermont children live in food-insecure homes. Pico is looking out for their community by taking a stand against the injustice of hunger. They seek to improve the quality of life for all Vermonters by making sure that those of us who have little are—at the very least—fed.

Join Pico Mountain Resort and the Vermont Foodbank and say sNO to hunger.

Click here to make your donation now, and please give generously.

I'll let you decide


This story last week on NPR talked about the issue of food banks distributing all that is donated, including candy and other food with minimal nutritional value. I think the story missed a main point: It is not up to food banks to be the nutrition gatekeepers for our clients. We are not here to "do favors." Everyone deserves the dignity of a meal of their choosing, without a charitable gatekeeper.

We all need to learn to eat better and to understand the importance of good nutrition. It is also a societal responsibility to provide information and education about good nutrition, cooking well, and eating well for everyone, not just one group or another. This country used to provide that guidance, but stopped in the 1970's when the government began backing away from more aggressive nutrition and good eating advocacy that began during WWII. The 70's also were the advent of increased food processing and aggressive marketing of “junk” food.

I don't believe it is appropriate to single out 1 in 7 of our neighbors for disparate treatment just because they need to ask for help. Walk in those shoes and think how you would feel, if you found yourself being denied a certain food (or candy) because a charity decided it wasn't good for you.

so much to say


(image) Have you ever heard of wordle? Wordle is an online tool used to generate "world clouds" from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

The wordle above was generated from answers, by Foodbank staff and board, to the question: If you could tell a stranger (someone who doesn't know about the Foodbank) one thing about the Vermont Foodbank, what would you say?

And this is what we said.

Food, Food Revolution


It’s time for a food revolution!

I eat a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, locally-raised meats and whole grains . . . sometimes. But you know, when I smell those hot crispy french fries or that warm gooey chocolate chip cookie it is almost impossible not to eat just one, and then it’s impossible to eat just one. There are actually scientific theories about why this happens, and how foods are “designed” to make this happen. A new book by Dr. David Kessler, former Commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration, lays out what happens to our brains when we smell those cookies. The smell, sight or thought of fat, salt and sugar-laden foods triggers brain chemicals that create a path to our reward centers. The signal doesn’t turn off until the cookies or fries are gone. Does this description trigger a familiar feeling in you? It sure does to me.

People without enough food to eat are just as susceptible to these biological forces, and just as inundated by the ubiquitous marketing and advertising telling us all that these foods will make us feel good, make us more popular and help us have fun. These high fat, salt and sugar foods, which often lack any real nutritional value, are what you find in the convenience stores and corner bodegas in low income neighborhoods across the country. These so-called “food deserts” also lack reasonable access to fresh fruits and vegetable, lean meat and whole grains. What we end up with is the puzzling situation of hungry, undernourished and obese citizens.

Our government spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year enabling a food system that is literally making us sick. For example, overproduction of corn and wheat as the result of national agricultural policy leads to extreme efforts to use it all – enter high-fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, xanthan gum, citric acid (which can be produced from corn), modified corn starch, natural flavoring, and on and on. Even the canned goods supplied to food banks nationwide by the USDA through various programs are layered with sugars and salt.

It is time to say “enough.” A start would be for the federal government to reduce or eliminate the salt and sugar used in processing the commodities distributed through various programs to schools and food banks. Yes it will taste different, but people can add their own salt and sugar if they wish. You can’t take it out if it’s already in.

Building a movement takes time and focus and hope. This one has already begun, and is building in scope and intensity. I expect it will take at least 20 years for real change to happen, but each small step takes us that much closer.

Hunger Action Month – Think Big, Start Small


It is possible to end hunger in this country.

The missing pieces of the puzzle are a wide recognition that hunger is a serious problem and an unconditional commitment to feed everyone. Fortunately, President Obama recognizes that hunger is a problem in this country. We need that same recognition from the Governors of all 50 states. The talking heads on television need to talk about hunger. Businesses need to let us know that hungry people are not ready to work. Colleges and universities need to make hunger awareness part of their curriculum. Our military needs to acknowledge that hungry Americans are not prepared to serve their country.

When everyone is aware of the damage hunger is doing to our country, we need to make the commitment to feed everyone. And it has to be unconditional. No judging who is deserving of food assistance. And I mean no judging. We seem to spend a lot of time judging people these days, whether it’s their political views, socioeconomic status, how they use their money (or don’t), what kind of car they drive, or what kind of music they listen to. This will take time, effort and persistence, driving towards a clear, understandable goal - but isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do?

Existing federal and state anti-hunger programs, like SNAP (formerly food stamps ) and WIC can ensure food security for everyone in this country if we stop the judging, and shift existing resources to the right places. I won’t get into the details here. Check out for a deeper dive.

But we’re not all leaders in eliminating hunger, writing reports and making policy. Most of us just need to know what we can do today that is within our abilities and means. Enter Hunger Action Month. Each state participates by letting people know what they can do every day to move us toward a hunger-free America. You can take “The Pledge,” pick apples for donation to the Vermont Foodbank, have your book club read a book about hunger. In fact, there are “30 Ways in 30 Days” you can help. Visit the Vermont Foodbank at to learn more.

It may seem like taking a pledge, reading a book or making a donation to the Vermont Foodbank won’t end hunger – and it most likely won’t – but if one thousand people did it we’d have a start, and if they each convinced a friend, and they each convinced a friend and so on, well, pretty soon we’d have a solution.

Come closer, I have a story to share


Storytelling is something that any successful fundraiser must do well. The stories have to be engaging and connect to your organization’s mission in a positive way. At the Vermont Foodbank, we have a great story about our logo, a black bird with a kernel of corn in its mouth. It is an Abenaki tale. The Abenaki is one of the Native American tribes of Vermont. The story goes this way, I hope you like it:

In Abenaki legend corn is a gift from the gods in the form of a black bird.
On a cold night in the forest, Mon-do-min, an old, lame hunter, lay dying from hunger. He prayed to gods of the southern sky to send him food. Suddenly a small, black bird appeared. The man caught the bird, prepared a fire, and began to roast his meal. He was about to eat the bird when he heard someone crying. He followed the sound and found an injured woman and her child. He brought them back to his camp and gave them the bird to eat, saying, “The Great Spirit has spoken. You must live. I must die. But remember me when you see others alone and hungry. Share with them.” In the early spring, the old man’s tribe found his grave covered with green plants. The Great Spirit told them that the plants would ripen into full ears of a grain that would feed everyone. The black bird symbolizes the vessel for gathering, the yellow kernel, the food we share, and Mon-do-min, the act of nurturing others.

It would be wonderful if you would share with me stories that you have that talk about hope in the face of hunger. You can leave a story hear, or email me at

A Culture of Diversity


I have created this “Diversity Statement” for the Foodbank so that everyone – employees, customers, donor, and other constituents know that we understand the importance of diversity, and know that we plan to keep the goal of a diverse workplace in mind at all times.

“Our mission is to gather and share quality food, and nurture partnerships so that no Vermonter will go hungry.”

Fulfilling the Vermont Foodbank’s mission depends on creating a personal, trusting connection with everyone in our community—including people in Vermont in need of food, network partners, donors, and government agencies. One way we as an organization will gain, nurture, and maintain this connection is by recognizing the role diversity plays in all that we do.

To build trust and foster relationships the Foodbank must make a personal connection with each individual from whom we gather, or with whom we share. Making that personal, trusting connection means that anyone—regardless of age, income level, race, gender, culture, disability or any other attribute—should recognize the Vermont Foodbank as an open, diverse and welcoming organization.

A diverse range of potential employees must also make a personal, trusting connection with the Vermont Foodbank for us to be seen as an employer of choice. Our nation’s work force is increasingly becoming more diverse in every way—a trend that is here to stay. Potential employees need to be able to trust that the Foodbank is committed to an environment where each individual’s perspective, concerns, and contributions are equally valued, appreciated and acted upon.

The more diversity we have in our staff, our partners, and our supporters, the more successful we will be at gaining the trust of the people we serve. Diversity at the Vermont Foodbank is about achieving our mission and nurturing partnerships to ensure that no one in Vermont goes hungry.



Just as giving as an unconditional act, hope is about overcoming adversity and dedicating oneself to a long-term effort to bring about change. I recently read this statement about hope, and I found it a wonderful reminder to keep the big picture in focus while tending to the day-to-day detail of what we do. It was posted on March 21st by Paul Raushenbush, the Religion Editor for the Huffington Post, talking about the difference between “optimism” and “hope.” (My apologies to Mr. Raushenbush for taking his post somewhat out of context.)

. . . [O]ptimism won't carry you very far in politics, faith or life. Hope is different than optimism. Optimism assumes that everyone will be happy clappy and go along with the program, and then crumples when they don't. In contrast, hope inspires endurance, and requires serious work. Optimism is a luxury for those who can afford to lose. Hope is for people for whom there is no alternative but to persevere. It was not optimism that carried the great civil rights movements of the last century, it was hope that made a way when there was no way, and squeezed justice out of the bitter fruit of persecution. Hope is tied to a belief in something greater than oneself (if only the collective wisdom of humanity) that wills this world to be a better place. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote "Hope is the faith that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to have hope. Hope is the knowledge that we can choose; that we can learn from our mistakes and act differently next time. That history is not a trash bag of random coincidences blown open by the wind, but a long slow journey to redemption."
The promise that progress is possible, and that history is kind to those who work for the common good echoes the famous profession of hope by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who reminded us that the "arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice." . . . .

The courage of hope is why people persevere in ending hunger. I believe that long arc is indeed bending toward justice, and that we can end hunger in this country in my lifetime.

The Vermont Foodbank’s Annual Hunger Conference


This year is the 4th Annual Vermont Foodbank Hunger Conference, titled “Understanding the Persistence of Hunger and Poverty.” There are so many public and private efforts to relieve hunger and poverty both in this country and around the world, yet the problems persist. In fact, it seems that hunger and poverty have always been with us.

We have done a great deal in this country to alleviate hunger. People rarely starve or suffer from severe malnutrition but a large number of people, more than 49 million according to the USDA, are “food insecure,” meaning that they don’t have enough food to live a healthy, active lifestyle. There are programs: SNAP, CSFP, CACFP, SFSP, WIC, school breakfast and lunch, TANF and others that provide benefits to purchase food or directly feed people in need. What is missing?

That is what we will explore on April 27th at the Sheraton in Burlington. The morning session will be for the people who operate food shelves, feeding sites, shelters, child care centers and senior programs—for network partners of the Vermont Foodbank. We will participate in an abbreviated version of the “Bridges out of Poverty” program that provides insight into the challenges of living in poverty and perspective on the choices people in poverty have to make and the reasons certain choices are made.

The public is invited to join us for lunch with keynote speaker Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?. Joel is a provocative speaker, with strong ideas about how this country can actually end hunger and why we haven’t done it yet. The general public is invited to stay and attend afternoon session featuring Mr. Berg and others.

I look forward to the discussions that will come out of the mixing the perspectives of those in poverty with a policy plan to end hunger. Mashing the different perspectives together might get everyone off kilter enough that we come up with some unique and innovative ideas. It will be especially exciting to have the general public in the mix with what I suspect will be some different ideas about hunger and poverty and how to address the problems.

Please join us. For more information or to register visit the Vermont Foodbank website,

Say sNO to Hunger


Ski and Ride to benefit the Vermont Foodbank on Friday, January 29! For every all mountain lift ticket purchased with this coupon


Sugarbush will donate $10 to the Vermont Foodbank. $5 will be donated for every Mount Ellen lift ticket.

It’s been warm, but it is supposed to cool down, with snow showers Thursday, to set up a nice, cold day for skiing on Friday. Also, Timbers Restaurant at Sugarbush will have a Localvore menu on Friday, and a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the Foodbank.

This is really and unprecedented event, and an exciting new partnership between the Foodbank and Sugarbush. It will be a great day of skiing and riding, and I invite you all to come.

I will be at Sugarbush Friday morning to greet skiers and hand out coupons to those who don’t have them. We will also have a table set up with VFB information. See you there!

Hunger, Food and Power


Don’t underestimate the role power plays in the issue of hunger and people’s access to food. Food brings up powerful emotions in people – it is a very primal need. And powerful people, wealthy or not, do not go hungry. Powerful institutions control the growing, manufacturing and distribution of most of the food in this country. When some people don’t have enough food, there are programs run by powerful institutions (governments and NGOs) that can often decide who gets fed, what they get fed, when they get fed, and how much. This power can be used for good, and in most cases it is. There are also many peoples and organizations without power who struggle to provide assistance to those in need. Amazing feats are accomplished every day, yet people still go hungry in Vermont and across the world.

We can all do more good, and feed more people, when we strive to understand the power dynamics at work and proactively foster understanding, cooperation and empathy towards those with little or no power.

Hungry people can often feel powerless, which leads to feelings of frustration, hopelessness and anger. I know that feeling powerless makes me angry. Imagine the weight of these feelings, day-after-day, month-after-month, year-after-year. “Why can’t the powerful see what is happening, and fix the problem?” Advocates for the hungry can also come to feel powerless, frustrated and angry. At the same time, the corporate or government executives believe they are doing their best under the circumstances and wonder why the advocates are so frustrated and angry, and why the advocates can’t understand how “the system” needs to work?

The truth is the reasons hunger exists are pretty well know, and many effective solutions to hunger are at our fingertips. Starvation and severe malnutrition used to be a real problem in this country, and have largely been alleviated by successful government programs. It seems that there is no political will to take the next steps and end hunger and food insecurity. The necessary decisions are resisted because they will cause someone, somewhere to lose some of their power.

Do people really stand in the way of feeding others?

Maybe not directly, but many times I have heard the concern expressed that we must guard against people who are “unqualified” or “undeserving” getting food or benefits, or that people are “abusing” the benefits they do get. I have heard this from Presidents of the United State and U.S. Senators to social service case workers, food shelf volunteers and even other recipients of help; why is there so much concern about others getting “too much?” Could it be that if someone else receives a benefit that offends our sense of fairness or right and wrong, that we feel powerless, and therefore threatened?

It is difficult and against our nature to just let go of that threatened feeling. It is especially difficult to let go of that feeling again, and again, and again, each time our slim hold on power is threatened. I struggle; we all do. We just need to summon our reserves of grace, and each time remember that people must be fed, people must eat, and all of us have a responsibility to let go of some of our own power, and insist that others do so also. So let go, you’ll be glad you did.

Feeding [all of the] People Well: Why Food Banks and the Sustainable, Local Agriculture Movement Need Each Other (Part 2)


The local, sustainable agricultural community, and the movement to bring it mainstream, can really benefit from a clear connection to the food assistance network of food banks, food shelves and meal sites that make up the charitable food system. It is my experience that people committed to local food are committed to community-building and ensuring a tightly-woven social fabric. They will embrace the connection, especially if it can take their movement forward. Also, to truly be sustainable, a food system cannot just rely on a committed core of people: most of society needs to participate or the farms, and the system, cannot survive.

One hundred years ago all we had were sustainable local agricultural systems. Food simply could not be stored and transported long distances, which meant it went from farm to market for the most part. Those were the days of independent butchers, bakers, produce stands, and dairies. By the 1940’s, large, self-service supermarkets were appearing, radically changing our foods systems. The industry has been growing larger and more consolidated ever since. And the trend continues.

How can food banks help?

In a change process there are generally three groups of people: the early adopters, who will quickly embrace change (10-15%); the large middle, who are waiting to see which way the change is going before making a move (70-80%); and those that will actively resist change (10-15%). Here in Vermont we are already seeing the early adopters moving. The trick is to show the large middle that a tipping point has been reached and it is safe to adopt a new way of shopping and eating. Having the Vermont Foodbank, our 280 partners and the tens of thousands of Vermonters who access this food demonstrating how “farm-to-plate” can work – in a practical way – can go a long way to relieving the anxiety of the 80%.

The Foodbank, our partners and clients are a great laboratory and incubator for making the “farm-to-plate” model work in a situation where the conventional wisdom says it can’t work – with limited income people who don’t necessarily come from a culture of preparing fresh foods. In other words, if we can make it work, it’s ready for prime time.

The relationships between the Vermont Foodbank and the local, sustainable agricultural community are both longstanding and just starting. It is time to expand and deepen the relationships, and build the momentum necessary to sustain a movement.

So food banks need sustainable, local agriculture, and sustainable, local agriculture needs food banks. Let’s get to work.

Feeding [all of the] People Well: Why Food Banks and the Sustainable, Local Agriculture Movement Need Each Other (Part 1)


There is an “insider” debate that pops up sometimes in the charitable food world: is it appropriate for food banks to distribute everything that gets donated to our network partners – food shelves, meal sites, shelters, after school programs and senior centers? Even food that isn’t nutritious, like soda, snack foods and candy? Good nutrition is important for everyone, so shouldn’t foodbanks and our partners make sure that free food is nutritious food? My point isn’t here is to engage in this debate, although I certainly have a point of view (and as CEO of the Vermont Foodbank, that distributes over 7.5 million pounds of food, I don’t think anything should be wasted), but to talk about the natural link between food banks and sustainable, local agriculture.

Food banks originated to take food that would have otherwise been wasted and deliver it to people who don’t have enough food to eat. Over the decades, food banks have become conduits for food distribution by the U.S. Government, recipients of donations from food manufacturers and distributors, and have been aggressively sourcing food. As food banks move from donated food to more aggressive sourcing, we can and should find more sources of nutritious and delicious food to distribute. National produce donations are available, and the Vermont Foodbank gets its share. But there are issues of transportation costs and regular availability.

The place to find nutritious local food is to make connections with Vermont’s agricultural community and with those interested in creating a local, sustainable food system. It is essential that local and sustainable includes everyone, even those who are now served by the charitable food system. People committed to local food are usually committed to community-building, and ensuring a tightly-woven social fabric.

The Vermont Foodbank is beginning to build those connections through our gleaning program and by reaching out to the local, sustainable agricultural community. And they are reaching back. These partnership are both longstanding and just starting, but I see a real force building to delivering fresh, local vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy to our neighbors in need.

So foodbanks need sustainable, local agriculture, but why does it need us? That’s part 2.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Flynn THIS FRIDAY!


As a non-profit, the Vermont Foodbank is always looking for new and creative ways to raise funds. Special events are a unique way we do this, as they also allow us an opportunity to reach out to the public and share our work and our mission. This past year, the Vermont Foodbank decided that a benefit concert would be a terrific way to raise both funds and awareness for the Foodbank and the work that we do around the state. We approached National Life Group with the idea and they soon agreed to be the presenting sponsor.

Founded in Montpelier in 1848, National Life Group is a family of financial service companies based in Montpelier, Vermont. National Life and its foundation- the National Life Charitable Foundation- have been strong supporters of their community and the work of the Vermont Foodbank. And by sponsoring the concert, National Life affirms their invaluable role in a hunger-free Vermont.

For nearly half a century, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (PHJB) has brought the sounds and soul of New Orleans to audiences worldwide. On October 9th, PHJB will grace the stage of the Flynn Center in Burlington.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band derives its name from Preservation Hall, the venerable music venue located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, founded in 1961 by Allan and Sandra Jaffe. I remember stopping in when I was in New Orleans (oh, those many years ago at Jazz Fest) and heard some great Dixie Land jazz. The band has traveled worldwide spreading its mission to nurture and perpetuate the art form of New Orleans Jazz. Whether performing at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, for British Royalty or the King of Thailand, their music embodies a joyful, timeless spirit.

We are so grateful to National Life Group for their commitment of support for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band benefit concert. Now more than ever, the Foodbank and our partners throughout the state are looking to businesses to not only draw attention to the issue of hunger in Vermont, but also to support the fight against hunger in a very significant way. National Life Group has again stepped up to the plate to support an effort that will raise vital funds to provide food for Vermonters in need of food help.

Show up, and tell your friends! For tickets to the show on October 9th at 8PM call 802-86-FLYNN or visit