Vermont’s Hunger Rate Inches Up

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(Host) Vermont’s hunger rate continues to creep upward, but the increase isn’t as dramatic as it has been in recent years.

That’s based on new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

VPR’s Patti Daniels reports.

(Daniels) The USDA says more than 13 percent of Vermonters, nearly 82,000 people, are "food insecure." 

That’s federal jargon that describes skipping meals, relying on food shelves and food stamps to stretch the household food budget.

John Sayles heads up the Vermont FoodBank. He says the food stamp program "3 Squares Vermont" doesn’t provide a big enough benefit to last a household the entire month:

(Sayles) "Everyone will tell you – any food shelf or meal site – that a lot more people are coming in at the end of the month because their 2 Squares benefits are running out."

(Daniels) The new figures released by the USDA this week show that Vermont’s hunger rate inched upward by one percent over last year.

That’s compared to a 4 percent increase over the last four years.

So while the rate of increasing hunger has slowed, Sayles emphasizes the problem is still growing. And he says it’s all about the economy:

(Sayles) To me it’s not progress to say we have a gushing wound and we’ve managed to hold a bandage over it tight enough so that the blood is flowing a little slower….. We have fifty million – fifty million – people in this country who are food insecure. Last year it was 49 million. So we have an additional million people in this country who are struggling to be fed. To me that’s not progress."

(Daniels) Marissa Parisi heads the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger.

She’s in Washington D.C. this week lobbying in favor of the funding for nutrition programs for kids. But funding for some child-centered programs may come at the expense of funding for the federal food stamp program, called SNAP.

(Parisi) "So while kids may be doing better in school or childcare with that program, they might experience more hunger at home because their parents have less money to buy food."

(Daniels) The Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization Act has passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

Parisi says she expects a final vote this week.

For VPR News, I’m Patti Daniels.

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