Editorial: A $25,000 challenge for food is welcome news

The coronavirus is here and most of us have two overarching questions: what can we do to protect and take care of our immediate families, and what can we do to help others in the community.

We’ve belabored the first question with stories on social distancing, hand washing and other protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19. Now, 10 days into this rapidly moving pandemic, those who can must rise to the county’s next challenge — taking care of those most in need. 

As reporter John Flowers notes in a front-page story in today’s Addison Independent, while restaurants, bars, many retail stores and others have either been asked to close by the state or have closed to prevent the spread of the virus, the county’s social workers — like those on the front lines of this health care crisis — don’t have a choice. They have to ramp up their services as much as they possibly can. 

Providing adequate food supplies will be one of the big challenges facing agencies like Middlebury-based HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects), as well as Addison County Community Action/Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. As HOPE’s executive director Jeanne Montross said: “My goal is to keep staff, clients, and other visitors safe while continuing to provide services to the greatest extent possible.”

But that won’t be easy. Hundreds of Addison County workers are likely to be furloughed or unemployed over the next several weeks. Area restaurants and inns have already made such moves in Middlebury, sending several dozens scrambling for a steady source of income through unemployment benefits. That income, however, won’t cover all the costs for many. As studies have shown over the years, while the good economy of the past several years have benefitted the wealthy, more and more lower income families are living paycheck to paycheck and barely making ends meet.

What’s needed most in the short-term is an adequate supply of food.

Stepping up with a generous challenge to meet that need, Vermont Coffee Company’s founder Paul Ralston on Tuesday offered a matching $25,000 challenge to the community to help HOPE buy the food residents most need. If area residents meet that challenge, it would be a $50,000 boost to HOPE’s food supply precisely when it counts the most. That’s welcome news not just because it help solves an immediate need, but because it offers hope to many and a concrete way to help for many others.

Ralston put the challenge in sharp perspective to other concerns as it relates to this pandemic: “Whatever disruptions occur in our community, most of us will not fear hunger or homelessness. But there are some among us who are already at risk and may become more vulnerable as this situation evolves. We hope that together we can help others in our community feel safer and more comforted. As friends and neighbors, let’s work to restock our local food shelves."

It’s a challenge the community will no doubt embrace with generosity — with many thanks to Ralston’s selfless initiative. Donations can be made online at hope-vt.org/donate.

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This effort is also reflective of other noble community efforts to support each other. Early on, the college community posted a bulletin of short-term needs for college students who had to make sudden plans to leave campus. Many in the broader community responded with immediate help. Other efforts are piling up throughout the county, and will be surging as the number of those infected with the coronavirus increase.

We’ll be reporting on those needs in our print pages and through digital newsletters, the latter of which allows us to respond with daily updates and briefs on what the community may need — with edited and verified information you can trust. To sign up for the coronavirus newsletter click here, and please share the link with friends and neighbors if they are not subscribers. The more area residents we can inform, both in numbers and with crucial information, the better we are all able to slow the spread of the virus, and eventually, to enjoy the strength of our communities that much more when we reach the other side of this pandemic. 

Angelo Lynn

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100