Food insecurity and hunger often hiding in plain sight

Sometimes, problems hide in plain sight. One of these problems is food insecurity, defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as having insufficient money or resources to have or acquire enough food to meet needs to live an active, healthy life.

Ten percent of U.S. households suffered food insecurity, with the rate in Vermont at 7.9 percent, according to USDA statistics.

Charlotte, known for its affluence, has a problem with food insecurity that often hides — in plain sight.

The metrics of assistance provided by the Charlotte Food Shelf to Charlotte and North Ferrisburgh tell the tale: The food shelf serves 23-27 families per month, including up to 98 individuals.

Donations and grants to the food shelf made the purchase of 4,103 pounds of food from the Vermont Food Bank possible last year. Further purchases of 318 gallons of milk and other necessities by food shelf volunteer shoppers at Costco and Hannaford supplemented the food bank order, as do Hannaford gift cards for perishable items families need to purchase between food shelf distribution times.

Generous donations of over 300 pounds of deer and cow meat from local hunters and farmers augmented the meat available from the Vermont Food Bank. Hunger is as real in this town as the efforts to assuage it.

The metrics of assistance provided by the Charlotte Senior Center also tell the tale: With no income requirements, those 60 years of age and older can benefit from “Grab & Go” meals sponsored by Age Well for a $5 optional donation.

In summer, 60 people use this service weekly. In winter, the demand for these meals balloons to 120 weekly.

The senior center is part of the Locally Yours grant, overseen by Age Well and serving 40-50 seniors each week with a community supported agriculture drop-off from the Full Moon Farm.

The Charlotte Senior Center also provides 50-60 meals per week at its Monday Munch, with food prepared by volunteers, and costs covered by the Friends of the Charlotte Senior Center for a $5 donation. Age Well also delivers Meals on Wheels to Charlotte residents.

Sometimes the tale of food insecurity hiding in plain sight becomes clear with consideration of a mere box. The Charlotte Little Food Pantry is depleted daily, and is replenished promptly by the Charlotte Food Shelf, Charlotte Congregational Church members and other donors from our wonderful community.

So, the need is real and neighbors continue to step up in a way that gives hope that this community will remain vital. We are grateful for the donations of Nancy and John Barnes, the Proutt Family Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation, Susan and Hans Ohanian, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Hannaford Fight Hunger Bag Promotion. Hillary Maharam’s donation of flowers specifically grown for the food shelf, blueberries from Pelkey’s Farm and the magda squash from the garden of Arlene Marks and Steve Epstein, have been received with much appreciation.

This month, families served by the food shelf are encouraged to provide current sizes for those children who will be outfitted by the annual fall and winter clothing drive led by Alicia Cooper of the Charlotte Grange. Clothing will be collected in September for distribution in October.

If you can help with donations of produce, contact the food shelf at 802-425-3130. We thank those that grow, for planting an extra row.

Those who wish to volunteer will be warmly welcomed. Please contact Peggy Sharpe at [email protected] if you are interested in volunteering.

For many years the Congregational Church has generously provided space to us in their basement. We are still actively searching for a new home, hoping to find a first-floor space of about 600 square feet with room for parking and receipt of large food orders. Please contact Peggy Sharpe, food shelf secretary, at with any leads.

The Charlotte Food Shelf remains committed to providing dignified access to healthy food as well as assistance to those in need. We remind the community that if you or someone you know in Charlotte or North Ferrisburgh is facing utility shut-off or an unexpected hardship, help is available. All requests and grants are kept private and are available by simply calling 802-425-3252 or by filling out a request form. Request forms are available during Food Shelf Open hours, or on our website.

The food shelf is open for food distribution from 4-6 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. The address is 403 Church Hill Road, behind the Congregational Church in Charlotte.

For emergency food, call John at 802-425-3130. If you cannot come to the food shelf due to COVID symptoms or seek information about the food shelf, call 802-425-3252. Monetary donations are appreciated, tax deductible and can be addressed to: Charlotte Food Shelf, Inc., P.O. Box 83, Charlotte VT 05445.