We’re not talking about the folks whose stomachs are growling because noon has rolled around and they haven’t had a chance to get to their lunch just yet. We’re talking about empty shelves in households that don’t have enough money to pay the bills and keep the cupboards stocked. We’re talking about children who have to go to school early to get breakfast, because there isn’t much at home. We’re talking about hard-working adults who can’t make ends meet.
While many who are hungry may not show it on the outside, there can be little doubt of the need. Census Bureau statistics shows the poverty rate for Windham County at 10.7%. That means one in 10 people in the county live below the federal poverty rate. For an individual, that means they earn less than $11,490 per year. For a family of four, the combined earnings are less than $23,550. Of course, the numbers may vary slightly from year to year, but the reality is there for any who fall into that income category. Being poor is difficult, and being poor in rural Vermont can be extremely difficult.
Think about what that means. Think about what it would take to live on $11,490, or some similar amount, for a year. Many readers will have a car or truck in their driveway worth more than what someone who falls below the poverty level earns in a year. It can be a very sobering thought.
Another statistic that highlights the issue is the fact that 41% of students in the county are eligible for free or reduced lunches at school. That is yet again a bellwether statistic that shows there can be little doubt of the need of families here in our local communities.
As is often the case, what a government assumes something is and what the reality is for its citizens are often two different things. That is certainly the case when it comes to being poor. Just because someone may not fall below the federally-established poverty line doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling financially.
For those who are living with that reality, being poor is more than sobering. It’s a struggle just to make it through the day or the week. There are real people who make up those poverty statistics, and they need help.
The Deerfield Valley Food Pantry is one local organization that helps ease those hunger pangs. The pantry is ready to assist anyone who is in need of nourishment. Unlike federal programs, folks in need don’t have to fill out financial forms and other paperwork to get help from the pantry, they just have to ask.
But now the Food Pantry needs help. As was reported in last week’s edition, the Food Pantry’s major fundraiser, the annual holiday concert, has been postponed. The event’s postponement was out of the control of the pantry and the concert organizers. It was due to a problem with Memorial Hall in Wilmington. The building doesn’t have any heat right now. The heating system was lost during the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. The town of Wilmington, which owns the building, had hoped to build a deck off the back of the building to hold heating and air conditioning equipment above the flood level. But a snag was run into during the permitting process when abutting landowners missed the permit hearing. So the town has reopened the permit hearings, and meanwhile the installation of the new HVAC equipment has been delayed until the spring, at the earliest.
While the town of Wilmington and the hall’s neighbors work out their differences through the permit process, it’s up to the community to support the Food Pantry in different ways. The concert will return at some point, but until then the need for food among the community’s most vulnerable is real and immediate. Winter is approaching rapidly, which means many will have to choose between heating or eating. The Food Pantry is there to help make that choice easier.
There are some plans in the works to help rebuild that mountain of food the pantry so desperately needs. But until those plans firm up, the best thing folks can do is make a donation. Checks can be sent to the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry, PO Box 1743, Wilmington, VT 05363. Online contributions can be made at www.deerfieldvalleyfoodpantry.com.
Donating is the best thing people can do to help. We can’t say it more simply than that.