With the uncertainty surrounding future funding prospects for a whole range of government programs (housing, food, health care, employment training, etc.), it is important to remember that the Vermont Foodbank and our partner food shelves, meal sites and shelters are the fallback resource for our neighbors without the money to make ends meet. Some dollars in a personal budget are more flexible than others. Expenses like rent, utilities, transportation and child and medical care often come first. These fixed expenses are needed to avoid the crisis of job loss and homelessness. Federal and state benefits help keep budgets on track for families who do not have access to high paying jobs or are unable to work. But the loss of a housing voucher, Medicaid coverage or heating assistance will throw a family’s budget into turmoil and send them to the local food pantry to cut the food budget. That is why changes in seemingly unrelated federal programs can result in significant increases in demand on the Vermont Foodbank network. A cut to SNAP (food stamp) benefits, of course, will send families to the food shelf to make up for losing food purchasing power, but other program cuts and changes have the same effect.
With so many families surviving paycheck to paycheck there is no margin for error. No matter how you feel about federal government benefits, they are keeping many hard working families afloat. Your Vermont Foodbank is the one of the last backstops, and we need to be ready for whatever happens. Make sure we’re ready by donating, volunteering and advocating.