Foodbank begins new distribution program for perishable food

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(Host) The Vermont Foodbank is expanding its operations to meet a growing demand for its services. Next month, the Foodbank will launch a program to make more perishable foods available in many communities.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The new program, known as the Neighborhood Pantry Express, marks the first time that the Vermont Foodbank will distribute products directly to individuals. Currently, the Foodbank sends several million pounds of food every year to local food shelves throughout the state and these local organizations distribute the products to individuals in their communities.

Vermont Foodbank Director Deborah Flateman says the new Neighborhood Pantry Express initiative is modeled after a program in Michigan. Under this program, the Foodbank will send a truck loaded with 5,000 pounds of perishable items into communities around the state. Flateman says the local food shelves will alert their clients about the availability of these products:

(Flateman) “So the idea is that, we thought at the Foodbank, what can be done to help build capacity on the local level? And it’s a little more like direct service because we really are bringing the food right to the location. We’re putting the food out, the folks come, they help themselves and when it’s gone we pack up the truck and come back.”

(Kinzel) Flateman says the Foodbank will distribute roughly 8.5 million pounds of food this year to local agencies; that’s an increase of about 30 percent over last year. Despite this increase, Flateman says the demand for food is growing:

(Flateman) “The trend that we’ve been seeing, which is even more acute during the past year, is that of seeing more people who are actually working who are in need of assistance. It’s a story that we’ve heard now for the past few years but it’s radically so at this point. Our agencies are telling us that in some cases their caseloads are doubling. We’re still estimating that about 140,000 people or so in the state are accessing the charitable food distribution system at some point during the year.”

(Kinzel) The Foodbank is hoping to launch its new Neighborhood Pantry Express program at the end of next month.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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