Food Shelf undernourished

Increased need, decreased donations causing shortages

By Marianne Apfelbaum

Observer staff

August 29th, 2013


The shelves are almost empty at the Williston Community Food Shelf.

The nonprofit’s president, Cathy Michaels, told the Observer in an email this week that spending on food was almost double the norm for July. “We have definitely taken a hit this summer,” she wrote.

An Observer reporter’s visit to the Shelf on Tuesday afternoon confirmed the need for numerous items, with some staples completely out of stock. “We seem to have fallen off everyone’s radar screens,” wrote Food Shelf Operations Manager Sally Metro in an email to the Observer.

The food shelf, a nonprofit completely staffed by volunteers, has seen donations decrease since spring. “We usually expect slowing in the summer, but with the decrease beginning before summer, we find our supplies low now (and we have been spending more money to buy food),” Metro wrote.

Michaels noted that the Shelf spends an average of $8,000-$10,000 each month on food, but in July, it was forced to spend $17,000.

The food shelf is dedicated to eliminating hunger in the towns of Williston, St. George, Richmond and Essex, according to its website. “But we only allow people from four towns to do full shops: Williston, St. George, Richmond, and Essex,” Metro wrote in her email. “Of those towns, 45% are from Williston, 3% from St. George, 13% from Richmond, and 32% from Essex. We include Essex because the Essex Alliance Church is our biggest, regular, single food donor, giving us a lot of food every month.”

The food shelf allows people from the four target towns to do two “shops” per month, but Board members may have to rethink the geographic reach of the food shelf’s mission and/or the frequency of visits if donations continue to dwindle. “We are deliberating what to do going forward because of the increased demand and decreased donations. We may have to cut back our support for Richmond or Essex. We aren’t changing anything just yet, hoping that donors will be able to increase their support,” Metro noted.

“We as a Board want to continue to feed everyone, however when we start spending almost double our budget in a month, we need to start looking at solutions,” Michaels wrote. “We are committed to feeding the Williston community first and foremost.”

To donate

Tax-deductible monetary donations to the food shelf can be made three ways: online through the secure PayPal link on the Shelf’s website; dropped off at the food shelf at 300 Cornerstone Drive, Suite 115, during open hours; or mailed to the Williston Community Food Shelf, PO Box 1605, Williston, Vt. 05495.

Food donations of nonperishable items including pasta, pasta sauce, canned vegetables and fruits, soup, tomato products, canned protein, tuna, crackers, canned beans, coffee and tea, cereal, snacks, juice, macaroni and cheese, and rice are always welcomed. The food shelf also accepts donations of toilet tissue, personal hygiene products, condiments and pet food.

Food donations can be dropped off during open hours: Tuesdays, 5 p.m-6:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.–11 a.m. Food donations can also be dropped off in food donation boxes located at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library in the village and the Starbucks at Maple Tree Place.

For more information, visit