Opinion: We beat the odds
On any given Sunday evening volunteers at a local church in Burlington feed between 80 and 130 hungry people. The food is homemade, nutritious and delicious. The crowd is intergenerational. Some are homeless, some are food insecure and some appreciate the company and the safe space offered. With two tables laden with food and volunteers at the ready to serve, the first items on the line to be depleted are the vegetables and the second is the salad. Homemade apple sauce with no added sugar and whole fresh fruit is gone before the meal is over.
“Time” magazine reported on Oct. 3, 2018, that “almost 40 percent of Americans eat fast food on any given day and that recent federal data found that 90 percent of adults don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, and obesity rates continue to tick upward.”
The Farm to Family Program is one of the most enjoyable programs offered at CVOEO. Calls of inquiry start coming in at least a month prior. “When are the coupons available? I’ll be there.” People fill our waiting rooms in anticipation of receiving the $30 worth of coupons that give them access to fresh fruit and vegetables at local Farmer’s Markets.
About one in four families are eligible for the Farm to Family program. To be eligible you must be in enrolled in the WIC (Women Infant and Children) program or have a household income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Income limits for the 2019 season: $1,926 a month for a single person, $2,607 for a couple, $3,289 for a family of three, and $3,970 for a family of four. Some coupons will be reserved for eligible households that include someone aged 60 or older.
WIC participants receive the booklet from the Department of Health. All others should come to the CVOEO County Community Action offices in St. Albans, Burlington and Middlebury. There are five coupons worth $6 a piece in each booklet.
The Farm to Family Program started July 1, and continues until all booklets are distributed. Most participants need to be physically present to pick up the coupon booklets. Seniors or those who are disabled and not able to come in person arrange for a proxy to pick up their coupon booklet. CVOEO staff schedule trips to senior citizen sites to distribute the coupons.
Crop Cash is an additional program available through specific Farmer’s Markets where those using 3 Square VT benefits can double their money by using their EBT card up to $10 per day. It is a one-to-one match when purchasing fruits, vegetables, herbs, seeds and starts. Printed material listing all the participating Farmer’s Markets are published and distributed with the coupon booklets.
The Addison Community Action Office is located at 54 Creek Road in Middlebury.
As one Mom put it “The freshly-picked tomatoes and corn I purchased cannot compare with anything else: much more satisfying.”
What could be better fast food than to bite into a fresh Vermont apple?
Jan F. Demers is the Executive Director of CVOEO.