With the Vermont Foodbank reporting many food shelves are seeing surges in traffic between 30 and 100%—or even more, for some—Vermonters are stepping up to make sure their neighbors feel well-supported and fed during the stress of the COVID-19 crisis.
"This just makes me tear up," said Leslie Guth, who received groceries during a giveaway at Killington Resort Tuesday. "They're amazing."
Killington provided more than 700 bags of groceries, worth about $75 apiece, free to community members on a first-come-first-served basis.
The idea started when the destination heard how the dairy industry's really been hurting during the COVID-19 crisis from low commodity prices and massive disruptions to their normal accounts—namely, closed colleges and restaurants.
"It's a tough time for farmers," observed Joe Palmer of Thomas Dairy in Rutland, the business from which Killington purchased more than 700 half-gallons of milk for the giveaway.
"The driving force was to help out the farmers and help out the community, all in one," said Courtney DiFiore of Killington Resort.
DiFiore said in addition to buying a truckload of Vermont milk and hundreds of blocks of Vermont cheddar to give out, the cheesemakers at Vermont Farmstead then donated even more cheese to distribute.
The resort added other items to the grocery supplies, including bread, vegetables, eggs, frozen foods, and toilet paper.
"Oh hallelujah," said Anne Robichaud, upon learning her grocery bag contained toilet paper. "I'll tell you, that's something we don't get in our stores all that often—it's crazy."
If the huge crowd at the resort Tuesday wasn't enough of an indication of the surge in food need during the pandemic, Rebekah Stephens at the Rutland Community Cupboard feels it, too.
"Our community is hurting right now because of what's going on," the executive director of the food pantry said, noting that traffic has just about doubled most days—from 25 or 30 families on a busy day to 50 or 60.
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With a sharp spike in unemployment, Stephens said she expects many families' finances to worsen before they improve.
"I am incredibly grateful and blessed that we can be here to serve them," Stephens told NECN and NBC10 Boston.
More help is on its way starting Wednesday, with the Vermont National Guard and Vermont Foodbank announcing they will hand out thousands of military meals-ready-to-eat.
Recipients can pick up seven days' worth of meals for their families at five scheduled pickup sites statewide this week and next.
According to the Vermont Foodbank, the MREs will be ready to pick up between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on the scheduled days at the following locations:
- Wednesday, April 22: Franklin County Airport, Swanton
- Friday, April 24: Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport, North Clarendon
- Monday, April 27: Hartness State Airport, North Springfield
- Tuesday, April 28: William H. Morse State Airport, Bennington
- Wednesday, April 29: Northeast Kingdom International Airport, Newport
The MRE distribution is aimed at easing the burden on charitable food shelves, the Vermont Foodbank said in announcing the pickup sites.
Back at the mountain, Killington said it’ll keep looking for ways to help its neighbors and live up to the mantra of "Vermont Strong."