A car pulls up in the dusty parking lot of the South Burlington Food Shelf. Angel steps out of the car and picks up two boxes from a volunteer.
For most, the small building could easily blend in with the surrounding shops on Dorset Street, but for Angel, whose last name has been withheld, it’s a lifeline.
“It’s very helpful, my husband unfortunately lost his job and we’re down to one income,” she said, “it’s very hard to sustain ourselves that way.”
Angel shops at grocery stores in addition to going to the food shelf, which helps stretch her family’s budget.
Food Shelf Director Peter Carmolli said that what started as a group of concerned citizens and faith-based organizations ended up with him taking the reins of the budding nonprofit.
“We were a bunch of volunteers, but no one would take charge, so I decided to do it,” he said,
The inside of the food shelf is painted a sunshine-y yellow and there is a maze of metal shelving, refrigerators and tables heaped with boxes full of food.
When donated food comes in, it’s left on designated shelves for a day to mitigate risks of volunteers and recipients contracting COVID-19.
Boxes of food are being pre-packed until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Food Shelf volunteer Steve Wehmeyer said he enjoyed working at the food shelf.
“In the 2 hours we are here we do purposeful work,” he said. “We don’t have a day when someone doesn’t show up with a donation.”
He said the experience of working at the food shelf was also eye opening.
“That’s the thing about modern society, you never know what people are dealing with.” he said.
Hunger Free Vermont is an organization that advocates at the state government level to reduce hunger.
The nonprofits objectives include expanding children’s meal programs and providing funding to nutrition programs, according to its website.
Executive Director Anore Horton said the organization works on long term solutions to end hunger.
“The job of a food shelf is designed to address immediate needs,” she said,
She said the system was a response to Reagan era cuts to the federal nutrition program in the 1980s.
“Churches and other organizations stepped in and now we have a vast system of food aid,” she said,
Hunger Free Vermont focuses on advocacy to help people access federal nutrition programs in Vermont.
Horton said that it was possible to end hunger in the United States through government solutions.
“We advocate for that version of the future and we do that by advocating to improve existing programs and creating transformational change in the programs,” she said,
According to Horton, Hunger Free Vermont had a bill in the Vermont statehouse to have all breakfast and lunches at public schools be provided to students for no charge regardless of family income.