Future funding for food distribution sites uncertain

Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 6:06 PM EDT
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Food distribution sites across Vermont have been feeding families through the pandemic. But the contract for the program is coming up and there is uncertainty about the future of those programs. Our Kevin Gaiss went to one distribution site to find out about the need for the food and the future of the program.

"We don't have the resources, as we would if we lived in a humongous city," said Mandy Lowell, a parent.

Lowell says she's been in need of help.

"We don't have access to a Walmart or anything like that and like I said with the kids being home, he's growing, he needs more food," she said.

For residents of Vermont like Lowell, the food distribution sites have been a lifeline while people are still out of work due to COVID-19. But funding could be cut on Monday.

"I think it is a need, especially with the kids being out of school for the past three months. And then we still have three months left before they go back to school, hopefully, in September," Lowell said.

The distribution pop-ups have been a collaboration between the USDA, the Abbey Group and the Vermont Foodbank, but that contract is coming up for July and August, leaving the future of the distribution up in the air.

"We are waiting, on Monday, or by Monday we will find out whether that is extended through July and August," said John Sayles, the CEO of the Vermont Foodbank.

Sayles says without the program, the nonprofit will feel the pinch.

"If the USDA funding were to end or get cut, that would put a lot of pressure on the foodbank. So, with this program, we have been able to get a significant amount of food above and beyond what we usually do," Sayles said.

But Sayles says the USDA-sponsored food has been able to double the amount of food. He adds that food pantries and other small distribution sites have seen a small drop in the number of people coming through the door. But for him, that doesn't signal the end of the need.

"This is unprecedented time and we have never seen this before, so I can't say what will happen in the future," Sayles said. "But I will say with so many people unemployed and so many people getting laid off that the need is going to be there for quite a while."

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