By Christie Allen
The Shelburne Food Shelf held its second annual meeting last Wednesday to take stock of the past year’s growth and accomplishments, and look ahead to the needs in the community that it can address in the next year.
The group gathered at Trinity Episcopal Church for a dinner catered by Cucina Antica, on tables decorated with flowers from In Full Bloom. Around the room, attendees included the Food Shelf board of directors; Shelburne Community School administrators, staff, and social workers; a Shelburne state representative; volunteers; donors; faith community members; Social Services Committee members; town officials; and others.
Food Shelf board Chair Tom Zenaty addressed the group, noting the work the organization has done to engage more members of the community who are in need, and expressing gratitude for the generous food and financial support that the Shelburne community provides.
“We are so fortunate to be able to grow and develop our work over the last year, including a summer food distribution program and continue to provide emergency financial support, thanks to our neighbors,” Zenaty said.
He shared statistics that show an increase in the number of households in the community served by the Food Shelf from 25-28 households monthly in 2015 to 60-70 households monthly now.
This summer saw a new food program begin in Shelburne. The Food Shelf, in collaboration with the school and with the help of Shelburne faith communities, the Social Service Committee and the Wake Robin community, distributed breakfast and lunch staples to 45-50 families per week this summer.
The Food Shelf was able to provide 3,940 meals to children who might otherwise not have had them during summer break. “The community of Shelburne made this program possible and we hope to continue this type of programing in the future,” Zenaty said.
The board presented the Val Martel Award for community service in support of food access and the Shelburne Food Shelf to Sue Schaefer, a recently retired Shelburne Community School employee of over 16 years. Susan Stock, vice chair of the board, described Schaefer as the “child whisperer,” given her finely honed skill in recognizing children in need and taking action to support them in whatever way needed –academically, socially, and nutritionally.
Schaefer demonstrated this skill in the instrumental role she has played in implementing summer food programming for children in Shelburne. Over the last two years, the Food Shelf worked to meet the needs of Shelburne children who rely on school lunches and breakfasts for consistent food access. Schaefer, in accepting her award, also referenced the generosity of the community in helping her for many years as she advocated for and supported local children.
The board also recognized the end of two board members’ tenure on the board – Chris Donnelly and Barbara Cimaglio – and they elected three new board members who will take their places: Allan Merritt, Alex Bornstein, and Amy Nickerson.
Attendees participated in an impromptu question and answer session with Zenaty, which evolved into a conversation of shared resources, stakeholder suggestions, and brainstorming, demonstrating his earlier point of the bright, engaged, and generous community support the Shelburne Food Shelf enjoys.
Hunger Free Vermont reports that more than 69,000 people – or 11 percent of Vermonters – live in food insecure households, meaning that they don’t have regular access to nutritious food. Children and seniors over age 60 are disproportionately affected by food insecurity, with 14 percent of Vermont children and 8 percent of Vermont seniors living in food insecure households.
Even with federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP benefits or 3SquaresVT, families may not have the resources to meet all their members’ nutritional needs consistently. Vermont’s food shelves such as the all-volunteer, nonprofit Shelburne Food Shelf fill this gap for those who face barriers to food access.
Christie Allen is the secretary of the Shelburne Food Shelf board of directors.