November 21, 2017 – Our neighbors who visit any of the 120 food shelves around Vermont are trying their best to reach their full human potential. Some of you may have seen a piece on Channel 3, WCAX News, exploring viewers’ questions about giving to local food shelves and whether visitors to the 120 food shelves across Vermont are “double dipping” by getting food if they are not truly in need. The local food shelves in Milton and St. Albans said they had no concerns about the visitor’s need, and felt like this was a non-issue. I couldn’t agree more. I would ask those viewers to learn the stories of their neighbors who are visiting food shelves. One of our staff got a phone call the other day from a woman who had just been laid off, less than 2 weeks before Thanksgiving. She had no money and it would take at least 2 weeks for her to apply for and get 3 Squares VT benefits. How would she put Thanksgiving on the table for her family? We set her up with a Thanksgiving meal and she was overwhelmed. Such a small act that meant so much at that moment.

In fact, we all have neighbors who could benefit from visiting the local food shelf and don’t because they fear being judged as a “double dipper”. This shouldn’t be the case. Vermonters who live paycheck to paycheck and need to repair the car, or fill the oil tank, or visit the doctor, or get laid off, may experience a gap in their budget for a few months or more. Food shelves are places created by neighbors to help us reach for our potential, in spite of obstacles. If you take the courageous step to reach out for the help you need, you should not be judged, questioned, or denied the help you are asking for. You should be applauded for the ingenuity of finding the resources you need and the courage to ask for help.

These community resources are there to give us all a strong foundation and a well-built community structure that will help us weather life’s storms. So while news viewers may well ask if their neighbors are “double dipping,” my response is to ask the viewers to listen to the stories and educate yourself about the need and the damage that stigma creates in our communities.