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03/30/07 12:00AM By Ron Krupp
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(HOST) Commentator Ron Krupp was recently reminded that even in Vermont, hunger is a persistent problem.

(KRUPP) I always look forward to attending the monthly meeting of the Capital City Grange in Montpelier, especially when we've had a snow storm and everybody's swapping shoveling stories.

At the conclusion of the Grange meeting on March 3rd, after a song or two, we had the opportunity to watch a DVD, called "The Red Wagon: Facing Hunger" - the story of Vermonters struggling every day to feed their families. They rely on the charitable food system of food banks, food shelves, community food kitchens, boys and girl's Clubs, and senior meal sites.

The documentary describes the network of people working to meet the essential food needs of the citizens of Vermont. Here are some of the comments from the volunteers and food recipients. They give a real snapshot of what some Vermonters face all the time.

Wanda Hines, the director of the Chittenden County Food Shelf said she sees people every day who say they don't have enough to eat. Thirty-five percent of the recipients are children, and forty percent of the people who come to the Food Shelf are working. They are hospital workers, truck drivers, and food service workers. They aren't paid enough to feed their families, and few of them have health care. Others have fallen on hard economic times due to illness or the loss of jobs.

In Randolph, two factories that employed over two hundred people recently closed. One of the volunteers said, "Where can they go for food except to the food shelf. I've seen many middle class people come in here, not just the poor."

One of the workers at the Boys and Girls Club in Northfield said, "Some of the kids that come in wouldn't have an evening meal if it wasn't for the club. What do they do on weekends, when we're closed?

One recipient who goes to the Woodbury/Calais Food Shelf said he has a decent job, but doesn't have enough for food. He pays his oil and electric bills, money for rent and health insurance, but at the end of the month there simply isn't enough left over for groceries. He's thankful the Food Shelf is there and likes the sense of community. And even though he felt strange asking for help, he was thankful for the goodness of the people and how they treated him.

The Red Wagon is a real eye-opener. It shows how food insecurity ravages one's sense of dignity and how experiencing hunger is more than just about not having enough to eat. Fortunately, it also tells the story of how our sense of community is alive and well in Vermont, enabling people to help their neighbors.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.

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