By Jason Starr
September is National Hunger Action Month, and the president of the Williston Community Food Shelf Board of Directors is thanking residents and businesses for their continued support of the food shelf. Board president Ginger Morton said the food shelf, which is open three days a week at 400 Cornerstone Drive, has served about 5,400 people so far this year. That represents about 1,750 families, 580 senior citizens and 1,900 children in Williston, Essex, St. George and Richmond.
The food shelf is in its ninth year, supported by fundraising campaigns, unsolicited donations and food donations from local grocery stores. People living in its core four-town service area are permitted to choose items during open hours: Tuesdays 5-6:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Saturdays 9-11 a.m. People arriving from other areas are given a pre-selected bag of items.
“We have been very blessed by the generosity of the Williston community between monetary and in-kind donations,” Morton said. Williston food shelf clients may not fit the description people have in mind of who is in need of food assistance in the community, she said. “Hunger doesn’t necessarily mean poverty or unemployment,” she said.
“Many are employed, under-employed or in really lowwage jobs.” The food shelf service allows clients to focus on other expenses like medical bills or home heating, she said. Aunt Dot’s Place, a new food shelf in Essex, may allow the Williston food shelf to focus only on Williston, St. George and Richmond residents in the coming years. Aunt Dot’s Place opened last weekend on Route 15 in Essex Town. “Our board is going to discuss if we should still be the primary food shelf for Essex,” Morton said. While the Williston food shelf hasn’t seen a marked increase in visitors in recent years, the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in Burlington has.
“Over the course of our fiscal year in 2015, we recorded 32,198 visits to our grocery program. In our current fiscal year – which isn’t yet over – we have already recorded more than 41,000 visits to this program,” Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf Development Director Kelly Saunders said in a press release. “It has become obvious that the needs of our guests have increased due to the high costs of housing, heat and food along with stagnated wages,” echoed Edi Abeneto, the food shelf’s distribution coordinator.