It is a shameful fact that here in America, the greatest food-producing nation on earth, 49 million Americans frequently worry about where their next meal will come from. To visualize the magnitude of this problem, picture as hungry the entire population of all six New England states. Now, increase that crowd by 9.5 million. According to 2009 US Census Bureau statistics, the number of people living in poverty is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates have been published. Further, fully a third of all food produced globally is wasted – never reaching the plates of people who need it.
Here in our apparently thriving region of Vermont and New Hampshire, there are many families and individuals who struggle to make ends meet. At Willing Hands, we are reminded of this truth every day. Many of our recipients are the working poor and their children, or seniors who have worked all their lives and now find that Social Security income does not stretch as far as they expected it would. Virtually all of the organizations that receive our food donations report that the number of clients they serve and the intensity of their need continues to expand.
In 2020 a global health and economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic reached the Upper Valley. In a few short weeks after the first cases were diagnosed in Vermont, and sweeping restrictions on businesses and personal livelihoods were put in place, those facing food insecurity in our region jumped by 33% according to a survey of Vermonters conducted by UVM and Johns Hopkins University. We anticipate the food needs of many more individuals, families, seniors and others will grow and remain high in the weeks, months and even years to come.
To learn more about issues of hunger affecting Vermonters please follow this link to a video prepared by the Vermont Foodbank. Willing Hands is proud to partner with the Vermont Foodbank to help them distribute their produce to Vermonters in our region, and we have recently solidified a partnership with the New Hampshire Food Bank to address the growing needs to combat hunger in our part of the state. Video link: Hunger in Vermont
On the flip side:
It is our good fortune to live in an area brimming with opportunities to eat well. Our local farmers, grocers, bakers and chefs are expert producers of top quality food. The majority of us have ready access to this incredible abundance. The shelves of our grocery stores and farmstands are stocked full with a wide variety of appealing, nutritious food. In continuing to meet the high standards that we have come to expect, our food producers and grocers inevitably generate surplus, and they hate to see it go to waste. This year, over 40% of our total food donations were from local farms and the Willing Hands Garden.
Willing Hands provides the critical link between this surplus and our neediest neighbors.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of our local food donors, the professionalism of our local social service providers, and the financial support of many individuals, clubs, churches, businesses and foundations, the staff and volunteers of Willing Hands are working every day, all year long, to pick up this food and deliver it to those most in need.
Together we provide one small but effective solution to a very big challenge.