Joy Of Food Meets Challenge Of Hunger

Posted: Apr 27, 2017

The menus for Vermont Restaurant Week are tantalizing.

For 10 days, from April 21-30, 117 restaurants from Brattleboro to the Northeast Kingdom offer special prix fixe dinners at three prices, $20, $30, or $40 per person. There are also lunch and breakfast specials at some locations.

Vermont Restaurant Week is a celebration of the vibrant food scene that Vermonters are lucky to have at their fork tips. Vermont consistently tops lists as one of the best places to access local food in the country — and the state’s cheeses, beers, spirits, breads, meats and dairy products win many awards for quality.

But the event hopes to call attention to a different, more important food issue. Across the state, some Vermonters struggle to put food on the table every night. “Even in Vermont, with our foodie scene, there is a significant portion of our population that is struggling with food access,” said Nicole Whalen, director of communications and public affairs at the Vermont Foodbank, a nonprofit organization focused on relieving hunger by gathering and sharing quality food.

Whalen’s co- workers remember a man who came into the food bank’s offices in Barre during their lunch break. He wanted to thank them for the support he had received when he lost his job a few years prior. “I had to turn to the Foodbank,” he said. “I have three children and I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

They remember, too, a mother coming in with a young child to get an emergency food box. While they were waiting for the box, the child could be heard singing “We’re gonna get some food! We’re gonna get some food!” The child was elated by the prospect of a meal.

“We’re feeding one in four people in Vermont,” said Whalen about the number of Vermonters who benefit from food assistance from the organization. In total, there are 153,000 people accessing food from the Vermont Foodbank at 225 food shelves and meal sites around the state that serve local residents.

About 34,000 of these hungry Vermonters are children. “Childhood hunger is huge in Vermont,” said Whalen.

The Vermont Foodbank has programs to help with childhood hunger, including a backpack program that sends kids home from school with food for the weekend. The food bank packs up food for elementary schools in low-income areas and school administrators select kids to receive the food based on known need. While the children are at lunch or recess, teachers put the food in the childrens’ backpacks, so there is complete anonymity for the children.

To help curb hunger in Vermont, Restaurant Week includes several special events that serve as fundraisers for the food bank, like a Culinary Trivia Night and Bottomless Brunch. (Sales of meals do not benefit the organization.)

In 2016, Vermont Restaurant Week raised $20,000 for the Vermont Foodbank. Whalen said that for every $1 the food bank receives, they can provide three meals, based on the cost and food donated to them. Last year’s event provided 60,000 meals for Vermonters.

This year marks the 8th annual event. For guidance on how to participate in Vermont Restaurant Week, including a full list of restaurants with menus and the special events that benefit the Vermont Foodbank, plus an option to donate, you can visit

April 26, 2017
Source: The Rutland Herald

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