Written by Judy Stermer
September is National Hunger Action Month, a time when food banks across the country work to mobilize the public to take action on the issue of hunger. But hunger in Vermont is a 365 day-a-year problem. In Vermont, the Foodbank provides food assistance to 153,000 Vermonters. Nearly 34,000 are children under the age of 18. For far too many Vermonters, hunger is a reality every day.
It’s hard to focus, concentrate, learn new things, and participate fully in an activity or group when running on an empty stomach. For the 1 in 4 Vermonters who turn to the Vermont Foodbank for help each year, hunger makes even the most routine tasks strenuous or impossible. Nothing runs on empty—cars need fuel or electricity, batteries need power, and people need food. The Vermont Foodbank works every day to ensure that no one in Vermont runs on empty.
Each fall, the Vermont Foodbank organizes the Pick for Your Neighbor Program. In an effort to decrease the number of food insecure Vermonters and increase access to healthy affordable food for all (Farm to Plate Food Access Goal), the Vermont Foodbank teams up with Vermont u-pick apple orchards to bring fresh, Vermont apples to food shelves and meal sites throughout Vermont. According to Hunger in America, Foodbank customers are accessing food shelves and meal sites, on average, 8.2 times a year. So while food banks have historically been used in emergency situations, many customers utilize the Vermont Foodbank as a means to food security month after month. Because of this frequency, the types and quality of food shared by the Foodbank matter even more. The Vermont Foodbank is committed to providing the healthiest food to our neighbors all year long. Programs like Pick for Your Neighbor, along with VeggieVanGo and gleaning, allowed the Vermont Foodbank to provide more than 2 million pounds of fresh produce last year.
Pick for Your Neighbor also provides participants a great opportunity to support the profitability of local farms (Farm to Plate Farm Profitability Goal). During apple harvest season, individuals, civic groups and companies are encouraged to visit a participating Vermont apple orchard to pick and purchase extra apples for donation to the Vermont Foodbank. With the help of Woodchuck Hard Cider, who provides underwriting support for the program, the Vermont Foodbank creates posters and postcards that promote all the Vermont orchards who participate in the program. Each orchard also receives peck bags and orchard signs that talk about their participation.
The Vermont Foodbank ensures that all apples make their way to people who might not otherwise have access. In 2015, more than 18,000 pounds of Vermont apples were picked and shared with food shelves and meal sites around Vermont. Learn more about the Pick for Your Neighbor program and how to get involved as a family, group, or business.