Food Shelf wants to stop student hunger during summer3/19/09

March 19, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Williston Community Food Shelf is looking for creative ways to prevent school-aged students from going hungry this summer.


    Courtesy photo b y Lesli Blount
Williston Community Food Shelf volunteer John Davis checks the expiration dates on recent donations. The Food Shelf is exploring ways to provide hungry students with food during school vacation periods. 

Organizers at the local food pantry, located in Maple Tree Place, are brainstorming ways to feed students who normally receive free or reduced price lunch while school is in session, but have that service interrupted during school vacations.

Jill Lang, the Food Shelf’s president, said families struggling with finances take on an extra burden over the summer and during extended school vacations. These families must find a way to feed their children lunches — and sometimes breakfasts — normally provided by the schools.

“We’ve been wanting to do a program like this from the beginning,” Lang said.

State and federal funds help pay for students who receive free or reduced price lunch. Parents must apply to the school to determine eligibility for the lunch program.

Lang said more planning is needed to figure out how the program will work and how to get the word out to certain families. Lang said the Food Shelf might provide a letter for the school to mail to the appropriate parties detailing the new program. Families would then be able to visit the Food Shelf with the letter and get the needed supplies.

The program may also bring people to the Food Shelf that haven’t yet visited and need help, Lang added.

Members of the Food Shelf are also considering a “backpack” program for students. Jeanne Jensen, vice president and treasurer of the food shelf, said it might be possible to send students home with a backpack full of food twice a week during a summer camp.

The Vermont Foodbank, a nonprofit organization that supplies goods to food shelves, has a similar program for students during the school year. The program gives students food to take home on Friday so they can eat over the weekend.

Jensen and Lang said it’s still too early to know exactly how the program will work.

“We’re just at the planning stages right now,” Jensen said.

Either way, Lang said the program will focus on summer and other seasonal vacations, and would end when school begins again. She said she hopes to have a program up and running by the time the school year ends in June.


The Williston Community Food Shelf signed a contract this month to keep its location at Maple Tree Place until the end of December. Inland U.S. Management, the owner of Maple Tree Place, has provided a free space for the Food Shelf since it opened in November 2008. The Food Shelf is located on Connor Way, in the block above Ben & Jerry’s and Asian Bistro.

While rent for the food pantry will remain free, the organization will have to pay $250 per month for utilities. Food Shelf President Jill Lang said the added cost was reasonable.

“We’re very thankful,” Lang said. “They’ve been very nice about the whole thing.”

Lang said the Food Shelf is no longer looking at purchasing a house for sale in the Village, but she said she’s still searching for permanent options. When the lease at Maple Tree Place ends in December, she hopes Inland will be able to renew another contract for 2010.

“I can’t foresee them kicking us out in December,” Lang said.

— Tim Simard, Observer staff