May 3, 2023

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Carrie Stahler, Vermont Foodbank , c: 802-793-4923

Vermont Foodbank hosts Annual Hunger Action Conference
Senator Peter Welch featured luncheon speaker

Killington, VT – Food security advocates, service providers, and administrators from around the state attended the Vermont Foodbank’s Annual Hunger Action Conference at the Killington Grand Hotel Resort in Killington Vermont on Friday. The theme of the conference, “Collective Voice: Centering our Vermont Community in Food and Resilience,” presented attendees with the opportunity to reflect on learnings from collective and collaborative action during the pandemic as well as ways to continue to include those most impacted by food insecurity in leading and carrying out anti-hunger action here in Vermont.

The day kicked off with opening remarks from John Sayles, CEO of Vermont Foodbank and an opening storytelling panel featuring community leaders: Ali Dieng, blogger, storyteller, cultural competency trainer, and Burlington City Councilor; Enrique Balcazar, community organizer for Migrant Justice and leader in the Milk with Dignity Program; Mark Redmond, storyteller and executive director of Spectrum Youth & Family Services; Rocket, video producer, founder of Eat Vermont, and member of the Hartford Selectboard; and Teresa Mares, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Graduate Program in Food Systems at the University of Vermont. The panel was emceed by Susanne Schmidt, comedic storyteller, producer, and national speaker, who is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and faculty member at Northern Vermont University.

In response to a question about what one action step people can take away from this day, Rocket encouraged attendees to, “Be courageous in their compassion. And consider that you might be wrong.” While, Enrique Balcazar, through his interpreter Will, reminded attendees that, “When communities present solutions, we need to support them.”

The day featured a wide variety of sessions from a broad spectrum of topics including:

  • Personal and organizational storytelling
  • A working session to draft strategies for Vermont’s Food Security Plan
  • Community approaches to feeding young children, producing meal kits, and strengthening food security by dismantling stigma in school meal programs
  • Sessions on incorporating the voices and experiences of people with lived expertise in food insecurity in policy, programs, and collaborations

The featured luncheon speaker was Senator Peter Welch who brought his policy perspective on work happening in Washington D.C. as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the committee working on the 2023 reauthorization of the Federal Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is a critical piece of legislation which authorizes important food security policies like SNAP (known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT), The Emergency Food Assistance Program, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for older adults, as well as policies governing the farming, forestry, and conservation sectors.

“No Vermonter should ever have to choose between keeping the lights on and putting food on the table—but that’s the reality for far too many people across our state. For these Vermonters, the Vermont Foodbank has provided critical support and expanded access to healthy, nutritious meals,” said Senator Welch. “Recent threats to slash funding for food assistance programs and food banks are unacceptable. In my role on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I’m committed to doing everything I can to defend these vitally important programs. I thank the Vermont Foodbank for inviting me to speak today, and I am grateful for the hard work they do to feed our communities.”

Among the more than 200 attendees were Vermont Foodbank network partners, non-profit organizations, government officials, elected and community leaders, advocates, volunteers, and concerned citizens who had the opportunity to network, share their knowledge and experience, and creatively address the issue of hunger in Vermont.


Vermont Foodbank is the state’s largest hunger-relief organization, providing nutritious food through a network of more than 300 community partners – food shelves, meal sites, schools, hospitals, and housing sites. Food insecurity has increased dramatically as a result of the pandemic, economic disruptions, and recent flooding. The Vermont Foodbank and its network have been on the front lines, working to ensure that everyone has the food they need to maintain their health. Last year, the Vermont Foodbank provided over 12 million pounds of food to people throughout Vermont. The Vermont Foodbank, a member of Feeding America, is nationally recognized as one of the most effective and efficient nonprofits and food banks in the nation.