Don Keelan: Why are there so many hungry Vermonters?

By Don Keelan

If not daily, certainly weekly, we hear the news (Rutland Herald) of the 50 million people nationwide, including 85,000 Vermonters, who experience food insecurity or, in some cases, no food. Why?

I believe the increase in food insecurity, at least in recent years, is linked to the impact of Covid-19 and exacerbated by the double-digit inflation attached to almost every food group.

Don Keelan

The rise in the number of folks who make up the food insecurity statistic parallels the homelessness statistic: about 1,000 Vermonters before the pandemic, and currently, close to 3,000. Again, why?

There is plenty of food throughout Vermont, especially at this time of year. The fact that food is plentiful does not mean it is inexpensive or evenly distributed.

How to get food to those in desperate need was the subject of a round-table discussion at the Arlington Common in Arlington, Vermont, on September 22, 2022, sponsored by Green Mountain Academy of Life Long Learning (GMALL).

The panelists were from the Hildene Farm, Burr and Burton Academy faculty, the Manchester Food Cupboard, an East Dorset long-term farmer/grower, and moderated by the managing editor of Edible Vermont. The panel gathered at the Arlington Common’s Performance Hall and addressed an audience of 60. Due to the agenda’s seriousness, more should have attended.

It was clear to me, and I hope it can come to fruition, that the panelists believe there should be greater collaboration among the county’s organizations that grow, prepare, and distribute food. This writer has been advocating such a goal for years, and still, the nonprofit organizations involved in food distribution are of one mind, protect their turf.

Why, aside from inflation and Covid, do we have such a vast number of Vermonters with food insecurity when the employment rate is so low, businesses beg for employees and the governor noted there are over 20,000 jobs in the state waiting to be filled?

Not everyone wishes to admit it, but one community segment seeking food is closely connected to the opioid epidemic that has rocked Vermont, especially Bennington County, in recent years and is only worsening.

If someone with $100 to spend is afflicted with addiction, and their choice is between buying food or illegal drugs, it is not difficult to imagine where the $100 will be spent.

Our area is desperate for a significant addiction/recovery center. Such a center could provide medical treatment, counseling, housing, food, job training, and family support.

There is only one organization in our area that could be enlisted to provide these comprehensive services: Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. SWVMC now owns the former Southern Vermont College campus that could be repurposed to provide such services. The medical center has the expertise to recruit the needed professionals. It also has the skills to operate a multi-service complex.

What is needed is the medical center’s leaders’ willingness to commit to a costly multi-year challenge that will have little to no financial return.

Our area’s farmers’ markets, local farms, and food distribution centers can only do so much. The recent increased demand for their products will soon overwhelm them.

It has been said that we will not arrest our way out of the illegal drug crisis, and we will certainly not address the underlying causes of food insecurity by giving away free food to those families/individuals battling addiction.

A half-dozen years ago, a drug/Methadone Hub Center was promised to Bennington County but has not materialized. Now, we have an even greater need and opportunity to make it happen. What is missing? The willingness in which to do so.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

Image courtesy of Public domain
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12 thoughts on “Don Keelan: Why are there so many hungry Vermonters?

  1. It is no surprise that advocates of the constant expansion of the social cornucopia will inflate the numbers of those in “need”. In Vermont, recipients of housing and food assistance are qualified using the “honor system”. Everyone has some level of financial resources available to them, whether earned or through public assistance, and when food and housing needs are met through redundant programs, that frees up the cash resources for other expenses. From the number of overdoses that have occurred in Vermont’s subsidized hotel rooms, it is clear what some of those cash resources are being spent on. Public officials, and the democrat candidate for governor who advocate for continuing the hotel program have some of this blood on their hands when they push to preserve a program that provides the luxury and privacy of individual hotel rooms with no supervision. As well, government-subsidized feeding programs are ripe with corruption, as we have seen with the $250 Million fraud of the Minnesota “Feeding our Future” scam.

  2. John, We all know people who will stand in line for something that’s free but they don’t need it. If someone can get free food, that frees up money for alcohol, drugs, skiing or whatever. People haven’t gotten the concept yet that free means it has to be paid by someone else. Especially when the government is involved.

  3. No one is talking about the fallout of the breakdown of the Family Unit.

    Back when many of us were younger, we had much larger, stronger, intact families that took care of their own.
    There are so many people today with no one at all around them and they are now in crisis and dependent upon services..
    I’d say the rising hunger has a lot to do with this..

    Historically, so many women in trouble with kids- they’d move home with their parents and they’d all figure things out and rebuild that ladies life together.
    So many people today have no family to turn too.

    It’s not just the nation divided now, it’s families too and much of the social issues we now are suffering with are the fallout of this.. and I’d add in the rates of addiction and suicide as well.
    Broken Families ARE Broken Families- and look at how many of them there are.
    And yet who is talking about this and solving this?

  4. Do you all remember during the four years of Trump….this notion of “food insecurity” was equal to the climate change crisis in the biased VT media/press. Trump was causing it, doing this, doing that, killing people, removing food stamps…mothers & children starve.

    But isn’t it amazing that the second Biden is elected …(almost two long years now)..Liberals (and especially VT Digger)….never talk about “food security” anymore. Yet nothing has changed? Amzing…the “Double Standards” of all Dems & Liberals.. If they didn’t have their “double standards”…they’d have no standards at all 🙂

  5. And then there is those people selling their food stamps for 50 cents on a dollar. Money taken for drugs, which keeps them on the food stamps. Same with the suboven, they get their meds, then sell them to get other drugs to get high….theres no controlling the corruption right down to the consumers…

  6. Get welfare back to the towns. Let the towns determine who is eligible and who is not. The mindless state government is too willing to allow anybody who wants to suck off the government go on welfare. Bring that determination back to the towns who have to support these people. They would know who is really in need and who is not.

    • The towns!?!?!? Like Barre, Burlington, Randolph, etc, etc…I think it’s fair to say that in VT the “town leaderships” are the prime incubators of the leftist, wokist, karenist “tolerance” that’s ever come down the pike! Take government, especially all these local dictators in VT out of any decisions to do with making need-based judgments.

    • Vermont should also consider returning to county government.It’s obvious that central planning and the slush fund that pours into the state’s general fund is an avenue for political favors and power (Chittenden and Washington counties) as examples. The general fund scheme gives all the financial power to elected and unelected bureaucrats. A county government system brings the accountability closer to the people who are taxed and pay the bills. Currently, all the political and financial power resides in Montpelier. Smaller governments (IE. county governments) are easier to keep an eye on. This applies to the schools also. They should be county run schools, the state government has grown to large and costly due to corruption. The only way to cure the problem is to return the state to the people who pay for everything.

  7. There is one word that answers the question why, that word is corruption!
    Corruption, is everywhere you turn, and because we live in a world captured by a constant state of racketeering, a free market can no longer exist or flourish.

    Thus the host is ultimately consumed by the parasite!

  8. We need a deeper look into how the ‘food insecurity’ number is arrived at. It creates government jobs and government and non-profit (government handouts), but is it actually accurate and fair?

    • I agree… I know of people that get so much free food it goes to waste…. just another government job creating opportunity to keep the money flowing.

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