The Vermont Foodbank wants to build our network’s capacity to handle more perishable foods, specifically fresh produce. Two network partners, the Mary John Children’s Center and the Williamstown Food Shelf, recently received a grant from the Vermont Foodbank Special Needs Fund and purchased refrigerators. We asked them to share their stories.
Mary Johnson Children’s Center
by Barbara Saunders
For the past 45 years, Mary Johnson Children’s Center has served families throughout Addison County. We serve a population that reflects our community. Fifty percent of the children enrolled in the Center are funded through state or federal subsidy. The Center serves more low-income children than any early childhood program in Addison County. Ten percent of the Center’s enrollment is either in foster care or in protective custody.To meet the considerable needs of the population we serve the Center has several ongoing initiatives. These include our RFD program, which was able to enhance its services thanks to the grant from the Vermont Foodbank.
RFD (Rural Fun Delivery) provides meals, social support, interactions, engaging activities and skills acquisition for over 100 children and youth daily at underserved, remote locations in rural Addison County throughout the summer.
Each day, around lunch time, a team arrives at the designated site in each of three trailer parks in Starksboro and at the Bridport Central School. They set up a tent and tables, unpack coolers of food and totes filled with activities and books. There is always a small crowd of young children and adults waiting to greet the staff. Once the younger children have gotten their lunches and settled in for crafts and story time, older youth slowly appear and amble down for a meal, frequently requesting a second lunch for my “cousin” who stayed back at the trailer. The program is designed to address hunger, poor nutrition, social skill-building and the attendant issues of rural isolation.
At the end of the session, the van in Bridport makes deliveries to a handful of local farms that employ migrant workers. They distribute meals to the children of these workers.
RFD serves children from age two through age 18. Started in the summer of 2014, the program is a “drop by” program and our experience has shown that the majority of children participating in both lunch and the daily activities are ages 14 and younger. Youth older than age 14 generally come only for lunch.
The Rural Fun Delivery van pulls up to the central, shady location at the Lazy Brook mobile home park, at the scheduled time on a very warm July day. Not much has been happening all morning, but now children are waiting expectantly for the nutritious food, friendly adults, fun projects and stories. When the coolers have been unpacked, more children and a few parents join in. The lunches are opened, and young Tyler (age 6) finds something new offered-new to him, at least: a plum. He tries a bite, carefully, and discovers that he really likes plums, and when he is offered another from the sharing basket, he dives right in.
His eyes get bigger and bigger as he listens to a story about a special kite day in Japan, and when the reading is finished, Tyler discovers that he’ll be able to take a copy of the book home as his own to keep. With help, he makes a mini-kite of his own, and he and other kids from Lazy Brook fly the kites in the open area at the entrance of the mobile home park. As things are winding down, he helps the adult leaders Kathy and Shannon pack up the supplies, and is offered the last remaining plum, to take home. Tyler tells them it will be for his brother, and waves an enthusiastic good-bye, asking if the RFD van will be coming the next day. The answer of “Yes, sure thing!” is greeted with an even broader smile as he turns and heads back along the road, into the park, bound for home with his book, his plum, his kite creation and a new bounce in his step. All in all, a pretty good day in a six year-old’s summer.
Williamstown Food Shelf
by Rama Schneider
The Williamstown Food Shelf, with the generous support of a $500 cash grant from the Vermont Foodbank, has purchased a brand new refrigerator. This new ‘fridge’ is replacing a worn out predecessor, and it will assure us of the ability to temporarily hold food items requiring cold storage without fear of loss due to equipment malfunctioning. Additionally the new refrigerator is larger, providing us with more room plus a bit more freezer space.
The Williamstown Food Shelf is a small hometown organization born of a cooperative arrangement between the United Federated and St. Edward’s churches. Volunteers from within and without the churches participate, and the town of Williamstown has shown great generosity in donating goods of all types and cash. Our service area is primarily Williamstown, but families from surrounding towns such as Brookfield and Washington have come to us for assistance. We also receive support from these communities.
At this time we are gearing up for our summer food program that will, for a couple of months, supply a weekly basket of goods to families with children who have need. In conjunction with the Williamstown School District’s on-site lunch program, we hope to leave no child in town wanting for proper nourishment. We will be making Saturday deliveries to the families that don’t have available transportation.
When you support the Vermont Foodbank, you support programs like the Special Needs Fund and our network partners. Please consider making a gift today.