While many Vermonters are celebrating the long Memorial Day Weekend with barbeques and parties, there are also many who worry about where their next meal will come from. Its’ estimated that 14 percent of all Vermont households are food insecure – and that doesn’t let up during the summer.
"We’ve got everything set up here like a regular grocery store. The only thing we’re missing is a cash register," says Robin Rowe, who oversees the Pittsford Food Shelf here just off Route 7.
The shelves are filled with cereals, soup, cake mix, peanut butter and pasta. But soon, Rowe says, they’ll be stocking lots of fresh produce as well.
"In the summer, we have people who donate from their gardens," Rowe says. "There’s one family here in town that grows a garden just for the food shelf and last summer they submitted a thousand pounds of food. Other families will grow an extra row for us. So we’re very, very fortunate that we can give out fresh veggies."
Rowe and 20 area residents volunteer their time to operate the food shelf. It’s one of about 280 hunger relief agencies in Vermont. This one serves 80 families a month in: Pittsford, Proctor, Florence and Chittenden.
Rowe says clients can come once a month and are provided with enough food for ten days. What with all the layoffs, she says demand is up.
"A lot of them have a hard time walking through that door, but once they get through it and realize it’s okay, we’re not here to judge; we’re here to help," Rowe says.
"What we usually do when someone comes in first is we give them a personal shopping assistant – that’s so we can get to know them a little bit better and they can know us. There’s some people who can’t read," she says. "So we can go round and help those people. There are all sorts of disabilities and we treat everybody the same and try to help everybody equally."
And the people they serve, she says, are very grateful.