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Vt. Foodbank Warns of Donation Decline

Barre, Vt. — With federal funding cuts coming Nov. 1 and food donations down 18 percent, the Vermont Foodbank is warning that Vermonters in need of nutrition assistance are facing a difficult time.

John Sayles, CEO of the Vermont Foodbank, said in a post on the organization’s website that 3SquaresVT, a federal nutrition program that helps families purchase food, will have to cut benefits when stimulus funding, allocated by Congress in 2009, expires at the end of the month.

Households are expected to see benefit cuts ranging from $11 to $36 per month.

“We know that the charitable food system is already serving more of our neighbors than ever before,” Sayles said. “We are bracing for what a reduction in 3SquaresVT will mean to our food shelves and meal sites.”

At the same time, the organization is facing the loss of its largest food donor. Shaw’s Supermarkets, which gave 164,790 pounds of food to the Vermont Foodbank in the most recent three-month period, has discontinued donations.

“Less than a month ago, our largest food rescue donor told us they would no longer be making perishable food donations to food banks throughout New England,” Tom Abbiati, the Vermont Foodbank’s director of food resources, said in the website post.

“We were already seeing a 10 percent shortfall in donated product, so this additional reduction in nutritious, donated food will severely impact our food distribution to agencies throughout the state.”

The decline in contributions, coupled with the Shaw’s announcement, adds up to an 18 percent reduction in donated food, Sayles said.

Cuts to the 3SquaresVT program will mean thousands more Vermonters will seek assistance from food shelves and meal sites in the coming months, and the Foodbank’s network of 270 food shelves, meal sites, shelters, senior centers and after-school programs are already facing a 2.2 million meal gap.

“If the Vermont Foodbank doesn’t fill this gap, who will?” Sayles asked.

For more information about the Vermont Foodbank, visit www.vtfoodbank.org.