Opinion: County pitches in to help the hungry

Linda Tirado knows poverty firsthand. She has lived in it for the majority of her adult life. She also knows what it is to live in the middle class. In her book “Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America” she gives a definition of poverty that puts our world in perspective. “Poverty is when a quarter is a miracle. Poor is when a dollar is a miracle. Broke is when five bucks is a miracle. Working class is being broke, but doing so in a place that might not be run down. Middle class is being able to own some toys and to live in a nice place — and by ‘nice’ I don’t mean fancy.”
One in five children and youth in Addison County know hunger. Over 3,500 Addison County residents participate in the 3Squares VT program. There are 26 summer meal sites in Addison County. Ten senior meal sites serve our older citizens several times a week all summer long.
Last summer between May 1 and Aug. 30 our food shelf in Middlebury served 1,299 individuals; 342 of this number were under the age of 18, and 209 were seniors.Individuals and families came from towns throughout Addison County. It was a necessary way for them to address the quarters and dollars in their pockets.
They left saying, “Thank you for understanding.” “Thank you for not making me sign up for food stamps.” “Thank you for caring.” “Thank you, Donna.”
Donna Rose, CVOEO’s Addison County Food Shelf coordinator, says, “During the summer time fresh vegetables and fruits quickly disappear into the brown and plastic bags. There are many donors who are sensitive to the need.” Donna is grateful for each one.
And we add our thanks to the community for making that happen through food drives and monetary gifts. Just this month the Lions Club donated over 912 pounds of food and supported the purchase of $1,000 worth of additional food. Recently children from the Cornwall School gave hundreds of pounds of food — some knowing that their families have used the food shelf in the recent past. Cyclewise and the Marquis Theater enabled donations of food. The Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, which sees the need firsthand, has been a most generous donor. These organizations, so many more and hundreds of individuals over the years assuage Addison County’s hunger.
I echo the words of Harvey Mackay: “None of us got to where we are alone. Whether the assistance we received was obvious or subtle, acknowledging someone’s help is a big part of understanding the importance of saying thank you.”
I hope that if she needed it, Linda Tirado would walk in our food shelf for help. I know of 1,299 folks from Addison County who did that last summer. They left with bags of groceries given from your hands. Thank you.
Jan Demers, Executive Director of the Champlain Valley Officeof Economic Opportunity

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