In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, the Vermont Foodbank heard from thousands of concerned individuals and businesses, looking to support Vermonters in need of food. More than 500,000 pounds of food was received and distributed in direct response to Irene. The Foodbank received support from food banks throughout the region and as far as Missouri and financial support from every corner of the country. And it was because of this support that the Foodbank reached those hardest hit by the storm with emergency supplies almost immediately.
As we reflect back over the last year and ahead to the future, the need for emergency food continues to grow. Last year, the Foodbank helped more than 86,000 Vermonters in need of food, through a network of 280 food shelves, meals sites, senior centers and after-school program throughout Vermont. Since Irene, demand of charitable food has increased more than 15 percent. Food shelves and meal sites around the state are providing food to record numbers of people in need.
In response to the growing demand, the Foodbank is expanding program in an effort to create better access to food and to reach more people in need. This year, the Foodbank will increase the number of school and students participating in the BackPack Program, a weekend and out of school time program that provides nutritious food to children when school meals are unavailable. The Foodbank is also planning the opening of a regional depot in Rutland to better serve the food shelves and meal sites in one of the poorest counties in Vermont. And, the Foodbank, in partnership with Central Vermont Community Action Council will expand the Community Kitchen Academy, a job training program for under- and unemployed individuals that prepares students for careers in the culinary field.
After Irene, many people in our state visited a food shelf for the first time in their lives. There they found the help they needed to provide for themselves and their families. The Foodbank remains committed to providing this assistance for every Vermonter in need year-round because any day without adequate food presents a crisis.