Human food shelf to serve pets, too

HOMEWARD BOUND EXECUTIVE Director Jessica Danyow, left, and Jeanne Montross, top administrator at Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects, show a sampling of the pet food that will soon be available through HOPE’s food shelf at 282 Boardman St. in Middlebury. The two nonprofits are joining forces to promote one-stop shopping for area low-income families and their pets. Independent photo/John Flowers

MIDDLEBURY — Beginning Monday, Nov. 15, Middlebury’s Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects’s (HOPE) food shelf will be open not only to humans, but also their four-legged friends.

It’s a collaboration between HOPE — a nonprofit, poverty-fighting organization based at 282 Boardman St. — and Homeward Bound, Addison County’s Humane Society, right next door at 236 Boardman St. HOPE has for many years operated a food shelf to help people feed themselves and their families. And now that same food shelf will include a selection of dry and wet food for low-income families’ dogs and cats.

It was in early 2019 that Homeward Bound Executive Director Jessica Danyow approached HOPE’s top administrator, Jeanne Montross, for advice on how to serve low-income clients of Homeward Bound. This conversation led to creation of Homeward Bound’s Pet Community Outreach Resources & Education (PetCORE) program, through which income-eligible folks can receive free supplemental food and flea-tick preventatives for their animals. The program also gives clients access to affordable pet wellness care and spay/neuter services.

Danyow explained that PetCORE has grown in popularity since its founding — so much so the organization this summer began leasing a large storage closet at neighboring HOPE to house pet food. Danyow has had to hire a part-time employee to manage PetCORE.

“It was pretty chaotic,” she said of the space issues at Homeward Bound.

With Homeward Bound dog and cat food already stored at HOPE, it seemed natural to give PetCORE space in the HOPE food shelf. Now those eligible to partake in food shelf groceries can at the same time put a can or bag of pet food into their shopping cart.

Both Montross and Danyow stressed there’s a separate registration process for the human food shelf and PetCORE. Homeward Bound and HOPE require their clients to fill out an application that, among other things, requires proof of income level and size of family. Both programs serve households earning up to 200% of the federal poverty guideline. That’s currently $53,000 annually for a family of four.

Food shelf coordinators at HOPE will keep a list of eligible PetCORE clients on file. Those appearing on both the HOPE and PetCORE lists will be able to access pet food as well as food shelf groceries —  one-stop shopping.

It should also be noted that HOPE will reserve a shelf in its lobby area that will contain dog treats that food shelf clients can access — whether they’re registered for PetCORE or not.

Pet food is the only PetCORE offering you’ll find at the HOPE food shelf; the flea/tick treatment and other PetCORE services need to be picked up directly from Homeward Bound.

A majority of the PetCORE food is donated — or acquired at a markdown — by Homeward Bound sponsors that include individuals and stores. Danyow said donations are greatly appreciated, with financial contributions particularly helpful because they allow Homeward Bound to direct resources where they’re most needed. Plain kitty litter is always needed, and if you want to give food, then note that wet cat food — particularly the 9 Lives and Friskies brands — are in high demand, according to Danyow.

And let’s not forget about humans, as the food shelf could always use an assist, Montross noted.

Of particular need these days are condiments, peanut butter, 64-ounce containers of juice, baking mixes and Progresso soups, according to Montross. And HOPE is engaged in separate food drives for its annual holiday boxes, and for kids who need supplemental food during school vacations. Donations of holiday meal side dishes — like cans of sweet potato, cranberry sauce, pie fillings, etc., are needed. Desired kid-friendly foods include pre-made mac & cheese, cans of fruit, snack bars, cereal, crackers, cookies and fruit juice.

Please call HOPE ahead of time (802-388-3608) if you have a substantial amount of food to drop off.

HOPE officials also want to make sure people stay warm this winter. The organization has long provided assistance to folks at risk of utility shut-offs, and now the nonprofit has a substantial amount of wood to share with low-income folks in need. Montross explained that HOPE is the recipient of several trees felled in the railroad right of way during the recently completed tunnel project in downtown Middlebury. Volunteers have graciously cut and split that wood, and it’s now available.

And the next time you visit Homeward Bound, please consider bringing home a friend. The organization has six dogs and many cats/kittens available for adoption, according to Danyow.

The PetCORE application is available at Homeward Bound’s headquarters, or online at For more information about the HOPE food shelf and its many other programs, log on to

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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