Federal cuts and an increased demand for help mean food banks from Burlington to Rutland are struggling to keep their shelves stocked. With the holidays on the way volunteers are doing what they can to close the gap.
An army of volunteers flooded the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf with 92 turkeys and all the fixings Monday night.
"A lot of food coming off trucks in a short time," said Ted Shaw of Burlington Moose Lodge No. 1618.
The donations from the Burlington Moose Lodge pushed the nonprofit past its goal of collecting Thanksgiving meals for 27,000 families.
"It feels good to do something like this for the community especially at this time of year, and that's what being a moose is all about," said Shaw.
The food comes at a time when the Shelf is struggling. From fiscal year 2011 to 2012 donations were down by 500,000 pounds. And new federal cuts to the food stamps program are making things worse.
"The people we serve are seeing anywhere from $11 to a typical $36 cut to their monthly food budget. That's substantial for people struggling to make ends meet," said Rob Meehan of the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.
In Rutland, the Salvation Army Food Bank is facing similar problems. Folks there say an increased demand for food, left the shelves empty earlier this month-- something that has not happened in seven years.
"You never know who is in need of that food as we are asking you to donate as we ask you to help fill our pantries," said Maj. Chuck Balcom of the Salvation Army.
Balcom says 40 percent of the faces he's seeing for help this year are coming in for the first time.
"We are seeing a lot of new faces, a lot of new people coming to our applications and for the process of asking for assistance," said Balcom.
A November campaign brought in 300 turkeys and 19,000 pounds of other types of food-- up 3,000 pounds from last year. It's enough, he hopes, to get through the holidays, but admits the need is year-round and often right next door.
"It could be the next-door neighbor, it could be a relative-- a distant relative that lives here in the community. You know, you never know," said Balcom.
It's a message these men and women back in Burlington share. They hope their simple acts of generosity will go a long way with the people who need them most.
"It's beautiful seeing Vermonters helping Vermonters," said Meehan.
"There's people out there that care about them, a lot of good neighbors in Vermont, and that's what we try to do is help each other out," said Shaw.
The Chittenden Emergency Shelf says it will count on about 100 food drives this holiday season to help feed its customers.