Your Foodbank is here to act.
Every day we distribute quality food that helps feed Vermont families. Last year it was more than 24.6 million meals. By 2018 we expect it to be more than 48 million meals. But while we feed more neighbors, we also focus on helping our neighbors build more sustainable lives. As usual, I’ve been absorbing all the information I can find about hunger and poverty, and lately it feels as though I’m seeing a lot more thoughtful, actionable information that can help us change the conversation about poverty, and help our neighbors create more sustainable lives.
Solutions to poverty are getting a more thorough look than they did even five years ago. I have been learning more about brain development in children and how proper nutrition, physical nurturing, and even the number of words a small child is exposed to can alter brain growth in astounding ways. Epigenetics (how genes turn on and off based on environmental factors) is challenging our assumptions about the old nature-versus-nurture debate. Some studies address the physiological impact of the “toxic stress” that living in the uncertain world of poverty brings down on our neighbors; others discuss a “culture of poverty” theory. However, science is showing us that the recurring problems of poverty may have more to do with physiological conditions that perpetuate suboptimal brain development and “turn on” genetic risk factors.
How can we apply this new learning to our current approaches to supporting our neighbors who are not thriving, and what does this have to do with your Foodbank?
Part of the Foodbank’s mission is to “nurture partnerships so that no one in Vermont will go hungry.” We can’t do it alone. At the local level, we join our 270 network partners to ensure that quality food is available to put a meal on the table today, and tomorrow. Sharing this new learning about poverty with our network partners is leading to small pilot studies that can test new ideas.
At the state level I am a member of the Governor’s Council on Pathways From Poverty, a group of 30 nonprofit and business leaders who are looking critically and creatively at what we’re doing to reduce and eliminate poverty in Vermont, and advising the governor on what the state can do differently. The council is discussing all the new science and exploring whether the state should try new strategies.
At the national level, your Foodbank partners with Feeding America to pilot innovative new programs, learn from the other 200+ food banks across the country, and influence national policies that impact our neighbors living with poverty. I am on the steering committee for Collaborating for Clients, a project exploring how to make “collective impact” work in various communities, each with unique needs. It is a focused dedication to action that is going to result in real change.
Vermont Foodbank CEO