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Vermont food pantries report increased demand

An older white man in a green Vermont Foodbank t-shirt packs TV dinners into a box at the food bank.
Vermont Foodbank
Al Homens, a Vermont Foodbank volunteer, loads meals into a box for pickup.

Amid rising food insecurity in Vermont, food pantry staff report higher numbers of visitors and an increase in their food budgets.

The Hardwick Area Food Pantry experienced a 20% increase in participation from 2022 to 2023. Its food budget has increased by 38%, driven both by increased need and inflation.

"It continues to be challenging," the organization's board president, John Tuthill, said on Vermont Edition.

The Vermont Foodbank reports an increase in need from the vast majority of the 300 organizations it partners with across the state, including the Hardwick Area Food Pantry.

"We are seeing requests for more food. We're seeing more people show up, and we're hearing from so many network partners that they are seeing more people come through their doors," said Carrie Stahler, the Foodbank's government and public affairs officer.

Stahler attributes the increases to a number of factors: inflation, the recent end of numerous pandemic-era aid programs, and the summer flooding's effect on many Vermonters' homes and budgets.

She urged Vermont Edition listeners to reach out to their local food pantries, food shelves and meal sites during this time of heightened need. "Those smaller organizations are part of what makes the engine of charitable food run in the state of Vermont," she said. "It's really rewarding, and you know you're making a difference for your neighbors."

Tuthill agreed. "It's unfortunate that we have to be there," he said. "But it is very rewarding to know that we are helping out families in need."

Broadcast at noon Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.