The Mountain Times

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One in eight Vt. households are hungry

A new USDA report out Sept. 4, indicates that hunger is a frequent reality for the 33,745 (1 in 8) Vermont households categorized as 'food insecure.' This level of food insecurity has not declined since last year, despite a slowly improving economy. Food insecurity is the USDA's definition for families who don't have consistent access to enough food or enough healthy food because of financial constraints. Meal programs and food pantries report record high numbers, especially over the summer when school meals are not available to stretch limited food budgets.

"In these hungry households, children are not reaching their educational potential, elders are not getting the nutrition they need, and parents are risking their own health to make sure they provide for their children," reports Marissa Parisi, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont.

When a household becomes food insecure, young children often are cognitively, emotionally, and physically behind their food-secure peers, delays which follow them through life, reducing their chance of graduating from high school and hurting their potential in the workforce, according to new research from Children's Healthwatch. Seniors who are food insecure also suffer more illnesses and are less able to remain independent than those who have adequate healthy food (read Senator Sanders' report, Senior Hunger: The Human Toll and Budget Consequences).

The nutrition programs that feed children in child care, school, afterschool and during the summer, as well as programs that feed seniors at senior centers and through Meals-on-Wheels, are increasingly important in providing the nutritious food many cannot afford.
Vermont has recently made all school meals free for low income students, ensuring access to healthy food during the school day.
Another nutrition program, 3SquaresVT (formerly food stamps), is now at an all-time high with more than 1 in 6 Vermonters participating.

"3SquaresVT benefits are an important bridge for Vermonters who have lost work or lost hours, and we are very concerned that hunger will increase in Vermont when benefits are reduced this November, just as winter begins and heating bills rise," notes Parisi. "Other critical nutrition programs such as senior nutrition programs, HeadStart, and WIC, which serve vulnerable Vermonters have already been cut as a result of the federal Sequester, which will further increase hunger in our state."