HOPE adjusts its methods to fit the need


LILY BRADBURN, LOCAL food access coordinator for the non-profit Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects, deliveries a box of food to a person whose reserves are running low. HOPE has been limiting traffic to its Middlebury food shelf in response to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Montross

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury-based non-profit Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) is also adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization, which offers food, clothing and financial assistance to area people in need, is currently operating its food shelf via phone orders. People call up to specify their needs, then pick up their food outside HOPE’s Boardman Street headquarters the next day.

“We are still providing food to schools, so families with little or no resources can have something to eat,” HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross added through an email. “Unemployment benefits aren’t coming through with any kind of efficient speed, so many new people are struggling. Numbers are slowly starting to rise, and I expect that to continue. Not a mushrooming yet, as people are staying home. But soon…. ”

HOPE has organized delivery routes for commodity food boxes for elderly and disabled people. And the organization continues to put together food that is picked up by school personnel to deliver to the most food-insecure families.

“Although for now we’re not having to deal with people who are being evicted or having electricity turned off, there will be a large amount of that in another couple of months,” Montross predicted.

HOPE is currently functioning with what Montross called “a greatly reduced staff,” but is doing well.

“My biggest concern is keeping enough food in stock,” she said. “Usually, when we place an order, we only receive a small amount of items.”

Lily Bradburn is HOPE’s local food access coordinator. As such, she plays a critical role in HOPE’s gleaning program, through which thousands or pounds of surplus fruit and produce are harvested each year from participating farms to benefit low-income folks.

Officials are hopeful COVID-19 won’t disrupt the gleaning efforts.

“I fully intend to continue to work with local producers as we have, and farmers have expressed the same sentiment in my pre-season check-ins,” Bradburn said through an email. “Luckily, much of the work we do already involves minimal person-to-person contact, and these systems can easily be adjusted should we need to maintain these safety precautions come summer.”

HOPE officials are trying to ramp up their direct farm purchases thanks to some funding received to increase local food purchasing.

“This has come at an ideal time as we look to supplement the fresh produce we receive through gleaning even more,” Bradburn said.

“While I’m very confident in deepening our continued relationships with local farms, I’ll echo what Jeanne said that having non-perishable food available to order to keep shelves stocked is a concern, but those of us working in the building remain in good spirits,” she added.

Anyone wishing to donate to HOPE should call 388-3608, or visit hope-vt.org.

John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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Addison County Independent