This is a show about how the charitable food system works and how it’s not working.
The topic of hunger is not very exciting. Stories about problems that have always been problems are generally not very exciting. And since there’s enough food to feed everyone in this country ten times over, hunger is obviously a systems problem. So I think I’ve figured it would get solved any day now. By systems people.
But it’s not getting solved. In fact the lines at food shelves are getting longer while the volunteers running the food pantries are getting older. All over the country, food shelves and food banks are struggling to keep up with growing numbers of people who need them. In 2014, according to the USDA, 14% of all US households were food insecure. And if the federal government makes more cuts to food programs, that number will certainly grow.
So I made a show about it. And and as it turned out, the people I talked with for this story were not boring. They’re tired, but they’re not boring. You’ll hear from Ernie LaRock and Marj Taylor of the Swanton Food Shelf. You’ll hear from Lisa Pitcher, who manages Our Place, the community meal site down in Bellows Falls. And you’ll hear from Judy Stermer, formerly of the Vermont Foodbank, the largest supplier to food shelves and meal sites around the state.
The music for this show is by Vermont musicians Brian Clark and Mike Donofrio
The picture for this show is from the Heavenly Food Pantry in Essex Junction, Vermont
A big thank you for helping to bring more understanding to this critical issue, and for introducing us to some amazing people!
I think the spirit of volunteerism in our country is a wonderful thing, but something seems out of balance when volunteers and the charitable organizations they work with are forced to shift into the role of providing essential services.
It seems to me that in much the same way that companies maximize profits by passing along significant externalized costs to all of humanity, our government is passing along significant responsibilities for the welfare of our citizens to charitable organizations and volunteers.
Putting working people into a position where they must rely upon the generosity of volunteers and charitable organizations in order to have enough to eat is another form of allowing companies to pass along externalized costs. Putting many of our most vulnerable citizens into this same position is another form of allowing our government to shirk its most basic responsibilities to our citizens. That we are considering social program cutbacks and massive tax cuts in a time of such intense and chronic food insecurity simply doesn’t make sense.
This is an incredibly well done piece, thank you! I once met a woman who worked for a government NGO trying to solve hunger through policy work. I run a small all-volunteer food pantry. She asked me, somewhat sheepishly, “Do you ever feel like your work is, uh, I don’t know, not making progress?” Well, sure. But as your piece says, if we don’t show up tomorrow, people go hungry. I had to tell her in the most polite way possible that I’m pretty sure her work wasn’t making progress either, because I have to keep showing up.
Another reason why people don’t talk about hunger is that it’s invisible. No one out there is announcing that they don’t have enough money to feed their family adequately. We see people of every age and background, even in our small community. And sometimes they don’t fit the description you may think. Sometimes they do. But they all have one thing in common.
I have a sister in law who devotes much of her life to operating a food pantry. Like the folks on this presentation, she is dedicated.
It worries me that this is no longer an emergency service. If our people cannot feed themselves, our system is broken and need fixing.
Hey Miss Erica–loved this Hunger podcast–such sincere words from people on the front line. I also liked your ending with –maybe it’s the local folks around me that scare me the most–in some ways, you’re right–it’s easier to march in Washington, DC then walk down the road and ask our neighbor if they could use some help. Another great podcast to add to the list!