Hope ‘Food Fest’ to help local families

MIDDLEBURY — Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) has scheduled its first-ever “February Food Fest,” a three-day event through which needy residents will be able to stock up on groceries.
The major food distribution event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 23, 24 and 25 at HOPE’s Middlebury headquarters at 282 Boardman St. The Food Fest will also feature the sharing of healthful recipes and provide an opportunity for HOPE clients to give their views on how charitable services could be provided more efficiently.
The fest comes at a time when HOPE has seen a substantial spike in demand for food. The agency’s food shelf received 498 visits from low-income clients during the fourth quarter (October-December) of 2009. That’s up 36 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2008.
“We’ve been seeing a lot more people needing a lot more food,” HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross said.
Montross and her colleagues have spent recent weeks stockpiling food reserves from the Vermont Food Bank and other sources to meet the surging demand. The food fest will provide a three-day window through which eligible households will be able to partake of that food, as well as receive recipes on how to convert the groceries into nutritious meals. Clients will also be asked to complete a survey on HOPE’s outreach efforts and how they could be improved.
In order to be eligible for food fest products, a household cannot earn more than 185 percent of the federal poverty guideline. That threshold is $2,159 per month for a couple and $3,260 for a family of four.
Available free products will include pasta, tuna, dried milk, oats, rice, beans and more.
Anyone with questions about the food fest should call HOPE at 388-3608.
Meanwhile, HOPE officials were pleased with the success of this past weekend’s “Food from the Heart” food drive. Thanks to those efforts, the Addison County Emergency Food Shelf was substantially replenished with a supply of useful items. Members of the Middlebury Lions Club stood outside local stores cheerfully asking for food. Community members donated such items as soup, bags of potatoes, cheese, cereal, diapers, and many other important items.
John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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