Report on 2000 Survey of Vermont Emergency
Food Shelves and Community Kitchens
Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity
103 South Main Street
Waterbury VT 05671-1801
802-241-2458 (fax: 802-241-1225)
'Our clientele is made up of three groups. First, there are people who lose a job or
have a medical emergency or some other emergency. We see them a few times in
rapid succession, then never again. Then, there are the folks who are always living
on the edge, especially elderly people and families with children. We try to
encourage them not to come more than once a month. And there are one-time users
that we never see again.” Sheldon Methodist Church Food Shelf
Report on the 2000 Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity
SURVEY OF EMERGENCY FOOD SHELVES AND COMMUNITY KITCHENS
The tenth Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) survey of the state's local emergency
food shelves and community kitchens found that:
The number of Vermonters seeking help from local food shelves and the number of meals being
served at community kitchens have never been higher, despite the economic prosperity the state has
enjoyed in recent years. Vermont's food shelf caseload increased by five percent over the past year.
and now averages 6,850 households per month. This is more than double the food shelf caseload in
1990, when OEO initiated an annual survey process.
Food shelves report that the number of elderly households seeking help rose by 15% over the last
year. Twenty-two percent of food shelf customers are households with an elderly person.
Vermont now has 125 local food shelves and thirty community kitchens, compared to seventy
food shelves and fourteen community kitchens active in 1990.
Community kitchens are serving an average of 19,961 meals a month, four percent more than
when OEO's last survey was conducted in late 1998. Thirty-nine percent of the community kitchen
meals are being served to children and persons over sixty-five. Senior citizens account for a
quarter (24%) of the meals served, an 11 % increase over the 1998 survey finding.
Over half (54%) of the food shelf customers are families with minor children to feed. An average of
8,209 Vermont children are being fed by food shelves each month, and different families use the
food shelves each month. One out of seven community kitchen meals are being served to children,
a 28% increase over the last year.
Vermont food shelves and community kitchens are providing an estimated $4 million worth of
food services yearly, most of which is from private, charitable contributions of cash or food.
Food shelves and community kitchens are products of grass roots efforts …1ocal residents getting
together to create a resource to address a need in their community. This report measures the services
they provide. The full extent of the need for such services, taking into account Verm6nters who may be
unwilling or unable to seek outside help in meeting their nutritional needs, is unknown.
Food shelves provide take-home groceries, while
“ So many of the jobs available community kitchens (formerly called soup kitchens)
are high tech jobs, and a lot of the offer prepared, sit-down meals. Most sites are run by
people we serve work at volunteers and depend heavily, if not exclusively, upon
McDonald’s, dishwasher jobs, donations of supplies, labor, space, money and food.
that kind of job. Minimum wage
is nothing. Rents are so About two-thirds of these sites belong to the Vermont
expensive, and there’s not enough Foodbank (see box, page 3), which gives them access to
subsidized housing. A lot of low cost foods mobilized in large quantities from
young people simply can’t make commercial and other food suppliers.
it.” – Shelburne Emergency Food
Monthly Food Shelf Caseload :
Five food shelves closed and thirteen new ones got underway since 32 fewer than 10 households
the 1998 OEO survey, so 125 food shelves were surveyed in 2000. 35 10 - 24 households
For the 112 sites that were active in both years, fifty (45%) reported 27 25 - 49 households
higher caseloads in 2000. Thirty food shelves reported no change in 14 50 - 99 households
the number of households seeking help, and only thirty-two (29%) 17 100 or more households
reported a decline. Despite Vermont's strong economy, the number 125 total shelves surveyed
of households being served by food shelves rose by five percent
Note: Some households may get
over the last year to an average of 6,850 households a month. Based
on dollar figures provided to OEO in earlier surveys, the total value help more than once in a month,
of food being distributed by local food shelves in Vermont is now so the "demand" on these sites
estimated at $3,300,000 yearly. for assistance is actually higher.
The median food shelf caseload is 20 households per month,
averaged over a year's time. Many sites will help someone more than once a month, depending on the
family's needs and how much food the site has available. Some food shelves lacking space or
refrigeration give customers a grocery store voucher to buy certain perishable foods so they can
supplement the goods the food shelf has in stock. While several sites limit their services to local
residents, one agency noted that, especially in small towns, families facing food shortages are often
too embarrassed to ask local people for help, and
may go to a food shelf in a nearby town instead.
2000 Food Shelf Caseload Profile
Households Households Service levels vary widely, from sites responding to
with children with elders one or two requests a month, to the Chittenden
Emergency Food Shelf in the City of Burlington,
County under 18 aged 65+
averaging 1,550 households a month. One reason why
Addison 58.5% 21.1% OEO did not conduct a survey in 1999 was that the
Bennington 58.6% 22.0% mid-year closure of the only supermarket in
Caledonia 49.7% 29.3% downtown Burlington resulted in an unusual surge in
Chittenden 42.9% 14.3% demand on the City's food shelves that subsided
Essex 57.1% 36.7% somewhat as the year progressed. The next-largest
Franklin 47.3% 23.8% food shelf caseload is at the Brattleboro Drop-In
Grand Isle 73.3% 26.7% Center, which averages 426 households per month.
Lamoille 62.1% 33.5%
Orange 53.1 % 27.3% The OEO survey asks food shelves to estimate the
Orleans 67.4% 19.9% average number of households they serve each month.
Rutland 58.7% 21.5% Then it asks how many of those households include
Washington 60.0% 21.6% minor children and the total number of children
Windham 61.9% 27.7% involved, and how many the households include
Windsor 56.3% 23.7% someone aged sixty-five or older.
Statewide 53.5% 21.5%
The number of elderly households seeking food
shelf help has grown by 15% since the 1998 OEO survey. The Beth-El Christian Fellowship in South
Royalton and the Chester-Andover Family Center are among the sites noting that they take baked
goods or any excess food donations to senior housing projects in their area. The Chittenden
Emergency Food Shelf has a Homebound Grocery Delivery
“Our elderly population has
Program for elderly or disabled persons in the Burlington area .
increased tremendously over this
The Randolph food shelf works with the local senior center to
provide "storm boxes" of emergency supplies to shut-ins, and
past year.” – CVOEO, Addison
Northfield's Community Emergency Relief Volunteers food Community Action
shelf delivers groceries to elderly persons needing their help.
The average number of children depending on food shelves for part of their diets has hovered around
8,000 a month for the past several years. Many of their parents are working, but at wage levels too
low to put enough food on the table. When the 1996 and 1997 surveys asked food shelves to estimate
how many households included an adult who is working, job hunting, or temporarily out of work due to
layoff or injury, they estimated indicated that 42-45 percent of their caseload fit that description. OEO
has no indication that-this has declined in recent years.
A Foodbank Is Not A Food Shelf A needy person goes to a food shelf (also called “pantry”) or
community kitchen for food help, and some of the food there may have come from a foodbank. A foodbank
mobilizes large quantities of food from commercial or other sources, and offers it at low, per-pound rates to
non-profit groups that provide free food services and belong to the food bank. The state has scores of food
shelves but only one foodbank, the Vermont Foodbank in Barre Town. Its members include both non-
emergency and emergency food providers. The Vermont Foodbank also makes certain federal commodity
foods available to food shelves to distribute to income-eligible households.
Since community kitchens offer meals in group settings, they are less likely than food shelves to
track their customers' circumstances. These meal sites also offer an opportunity for socialization that
is needed by Vermonters who cannot afford to eat at restaurants or take part in more costly
Thirty community kitchens were surveyed in 2000. (Two sites had closed, and two more opened since
the 1998 survey.) Half of the twenty-eight sites active in both survey years reported increases in the
number of meals served monthly, and only seven reported lower meal counts. The survey found that,
statewide, an average of 19,961 meals are being served monthly. Over a year's time, that comes to about
240,000 meals being served, collectively valued at an estimated $700,000 worth of food services.
Community kitchens are more likely than food shelves to have repeat customers because they offer only
one meal at a time and serve individuals unable to prepare their own meals. For example, the Small
Potatoes site in Burlington reports that most of its customers are homeless, and that a fourth of them are
working poor. Many community kitchens offer just one or two meals a week. However, the Open Door
Fellowship in Barre, St. Augustine's in Montpelier and the Open Door Mission in Rutland were among
those pointing out that community kitchens will distribute their "leftovers" in the form of take-home
provisions to their customers or in packaged meals delivered to needy persons who are unable to go to
the meal site to eat.
“ We always give them bread and pastries to
take home. Many weeks we have canned goods
for fresh produce for them to take home.” – St.
Augustine’s Catholic Church, Montpelier.
Twenty-four percent of the community kitchen meals are going to
“ For elderly people, the
cost of prescriptions is persons over the age of sixty-five. The steady increase in the number of
killing them.” – Jericho elderly customers indicates that community kitchens have become an
Food Shelf important supplement to the federally-assisted senior meals offered at
sites throughout Vermont.
However, most of the four percent overall rise in community kitchen meals being served is due to a 28%
increase in the number of meals being served to children since the 1998 survey. Responding to this need for
food assistance among families, especially those headed by low-wage working parents, several food shelves
and community kitchens are either sponsoring or active in Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP) for low
income children in their communities. For instance, the Fairfield Community Center is a SFSP host in
addition to providing lunch year-round for children in the area.
Average Monthly Food Services in 2000. (HH = household)
EMERGENCY FOOD SHELVES COMMUNITY KITCHENS
HHs HHs with Children Meals Meals Meals to
Survey served someone benefiting Survey served served to someone
County sites monthly age 65+ monthly sites monthly children aged 65+
Addison 7 398 84 466 0 0 0 0
Bennington 10 355 78 458 1 1,500 500 400
Caledonia 8 290 85 363 2 1,450 150 245
Chittenden 14 2,044 293 2,278 4 7,205 538 900
Essex 4 49 18 95 0 0 0 0
Franklin 10 543 129 630 2 1,130 555 300
Grand Isle 2 15 4 28 0 0 0 0
Lamoille 6 388 130 593 2 638 65 41
Orange 8 143 39 192 0 0 0 0
Orleans 7 337 67 448 2 455 14 120
Rutland 9 618 133 788 1 2,700 450 1300
Washington 17 532 115 585 9 1,958 308 561
Windham 9 708 196 636 5 1,930 265 500
Windsor 14 430 102 649 _2 995 70 403
TOTALS 125 6,850 1,473 8,209 30 19,961 2,915 4,770
1998 Survey: +8 +5% + 15% +2% n/c +4% +28% +11%
Some food shelf customers may also eat at community kitchens. However, food shelves are of little help to
individuals who cannot use take-home groceries due to homelessness or lack of cooking facilities.
Therefore, the total number of different Vermont households using one or both types of local food service
during an average month probably exceeds 9,000. Over a year's time, that estimate would more than double
because many people go to a food shelf or eat at a community kitchen just once in a lifetime, and different
people use these services every month.
COMMUNITIES RESPOND TO LOCAL NEEDS “We are seeing an increasing number of
families each month.” – Kingdom
Community Services, St. Johnsbury
The people organizing local food projects use varied means to
obtain and make the best use of available resources.
Half of the food shelves ask applicants if they are taking part in the Food Stamp Program, a federal
resource that is disregarded by many Vermonters eligible for its benefits. As noted earlier, the number
of federally-supported Summer Food Service Program sites is growing as more local groups are seeing
how many low income children are depending on food shelves and community kitchens for sustenance.
Food shelves in Chester and Wardsboro were among the many that also provide special holiday meals
or food baskets; the Chester site noted that many Vermonters will only ask for help with food during
the holiday season. When the Meals On Wheels program serving the Newport area closed, Tender
Heart Ministries jumped in to continue providing those nutrition services to homebound elderly or
disabled persons in the area.
Two-thirds of Vermont's food shelves are church-based, but the religious community is only part of the
picture. Local service agencies, town offices, local stores and banks, post offices, scout groups and
others join the effort. Dozens of Vermont communities now have host sites for SERVE New England, a
cooperative food program where participants buy packages of quality staple foods at a very low cost,
along with recipes for preparing the foods, in exchange for a commitment to donate community service
to a needy neighbor or local organization. The Worcester Community Kitchen reports that SERVE
participants provide some of the volunteer labor at their meal site. The Joint Urban Action Ministry in
Burlington subsidizes families' shares of the SERVE food package cost, recognizing that this strategy
not only stretches available food dollars but helps recipients become active participants in the
community's response to local needs.
Using dollar values reported by site managers in earlier OEO surveys, food shelves and community
kitchen are providing an estimated $4 million worth of food services to Vermonters annually. Federal
grant and food commodity programs cover less than five percent of those services, while the balance is
donated by individuals, groups and businesses in private sector. The $4 million estimate does not take
into account the fact that hundreds of Vermonters are volunteering their time, and in many cases
transportation services and even their homes, to the effort to assure that no person goes hungry for lack
of resources. The services they have created are a critical, non-governmental piece of Vermont's
economic safety net.
OEO also uses the survey process to update its five regional listings of
Vermont food sites. For a current listing, call 802-241-2450 or write
to: Vermont OEO, 103 South Main Street / Waterbury, VT 05671-
For questions about the survey process and results, please contact
Mary Carlson, OEO's Food and Nutrition Program Coordinator at
802-241-2458 (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity
Survey of Vermont Emergency Food Shelves and Community Kitchens
Monthly Averages in Each Survey Year
FOOD SHELF HOUSEHOLDS SERVED MONTHLY
6,656 6,523 6,850
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000
COMMUNITY KITCHEN MEALS SERVED MONTHLY
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000
Note: The OEO survey was conducted in late summer from 1990-1998 and
shifted to the first quarter of the year in 2000. No survey was done in 1999.