A new USDA report out Sept. 4, indicates that hunger is a
frequent reality for the 33,745 (1 in 8) Vermont households
categorized as 'food insecure.' This level of food insecurity has
not declined since last year, despite a slowly improving economy.
Food insecurity is the USDA's definition for families who don't
have consistent access to enough food or enough healthy food
because of financial constraints. Meal programs and food pantries
report record high numbers, especially over the summer when school
meals are not available to stretch limited food budgets.
"In these hungry households, children are not reaching their
educational potential, elders are not getting the nutrition they
need, and parents are risking their own health to make sure they
provide for their children," reports Marissa Parisi, executive
director of Hunger Free Vermont.
When a household becomes food insecure, young children often are
cognitively, emotionally, and physically behind their food-secure
peers, delays which follow them through life, reducing their chance
of graduating from high school and hurting their potential in the
workforce, according to new research from Children's Healthwatch.
Seniors who are food insecure also suffer more illnesses and are
less able to remain independent than those who have adequate
healthy food (read Senator Sanders' report, Senior Hunger: The
Human Toll and Budget Consequences).
The nutrition programs that feed children in child care, school,
afterschool and during the summer, as well as programs that feed
seniors at senior centers and through Meals-on-Wheels, are
increasingly important in providing the nutritious food many cannot
Vermont has recently made all school meals free for low income
students, ensuring access to healthy food during the school
Another nutrition program, 3SquaresVT (formerly food stamps), is
now at an all-time high with more than 1 in 6 Vermonters
"3SquaresVT benefits are an important bridge for Vermonters who
have lost work or lost hours, and we are very concerned that hunger
will increase in Vermont when benefits are reduced this November,
just as winter begins and heating bills rise," notes
Parisi. "Other critical nutrition programs such as senior
nutrition programs, HeadStart, and WIC, which serve vulnerable
Vermonters have already been cut as a result of the federal
Sequester, which will further increase hunger in our state."