Photo of Matthew sitting on the inside steps of the Vermont State House. Matthew is one of many who are actively advocating for a food-secure Vermont.

Matthew lives in Brattleboro and started volunteering at Foodworks food shelf in 2023—stocking shelves, checking in visitors, and unloading trucks of food arriving from Vermont Foodbank. “Usually, I’m behind the table at the distribution area,” Matthew says. “Talking to the customers, getting them the items that they’d like.”

“Some people come in and they are excited to see the produce we have…Other people are happy to get food, period…There’s such a variety of what people are interested in because there’s such a cross-section of people coming here, and different people with different dietary needs and different preferences.”

Thanks to your support, food shelves and meal sites statewide have a variety of foods ready and available when people need it—from pantry staples to protein, dairy, and fresh produce.

Now, Matthew is a staff member at Foodworks. He also supplements his family’s groceries with food he gets there. He says the types of food available inspire him to cook more.

“I grew up on TV dinners and snacks and such. I’ve been trying to branch out my tastes a bit… I made stuffed bell peppers, which was really great,” says Matthew. “Just seeing all the food that comes through here, like a lot of produce and stuff.  We never really got things like that when I was growing up…That influenced me a lot.”

Matthew says his family has been impacted since the federal government cut SNAP benefits (called 3SquaresVT in Vermont, also known as “food stamps”) a year ago. SNAP is a program that provides people with money each month to buy groceries.

“That’s what we were using for food. We didn’t have much in the way of actual income, that was our food budget,” explains Matthew. “I do a lot of the shopping in my household… So, I have to try to budget it out. Trying to feed five people on over $1,000 a month is a lot different than trying to do the same thing with less than $400. It is this massive change.”

“I’ve been doing a lot of shopping around to find where the prices are better…Keeping an eye on sales…Not only do I not have a license, we also don’t own a car…which also makes things a lot more difficult because I can only get what I can physically carry to the bus and back.”

“We’ll run out of money 15 days in and we’ll have to adjust the rest of the month with what we can,” shares Matthew. “[The higher SNAP benefits] we had before allowed us to comfortably get through the month, for the most part. Sure, there were still issues. But we were able to eat.”

When asked what he wants policymakers to know, Matthew pauses. “I don’t know how to word it in a way to convince people of the urgency of this. But I’ve seen it firsthand. Not only in my own family, but also at Foodworks, connecting with people with the same issues, day-to-day trying to keep themselves and their families afloat. It’s really difficult.”

“If people can’t get food from their food stamps, they have to get it from other places. They can’t just adjust to what’s happening—they have to find other ways to make it work.”

Community members like you and Matthew are helping make sure neighbors across Vermont have enough nourishing food today, while working toward long-term solutions for a food-secure Vermont. Whether you share your voice, advocate for change, make a donation, or volunteer your time, you are helping grow a stronger community and a more vibrant state.

“I’ve found a lot of joy in it,” Matthew says about working with Foodworks. “I’m really passionate about what we do here

* To help advocate for state and federal policies that ensure we can all access the food we need, sign up for advocacy alerts and learn about what we’re actively working on on our Advocacy page.

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  • Elysia lives in St. Johnsbury and is a community consultant for Vermont Foodbank. She brings her expertise to help improve services and increase access to food for folks in her community.