Author: Drake Turner, Food Security Manager, Hunger Free Vermont

Jude Domski Photography

Food insecurity and obesity can, and often do, affect the same individuals. In Vermont, 1 in 10 Vermonters experience food insecurity, which means they do not have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. In our rural state with low-wages, high cost of living, limited public transportation, and often long distance drives to grocery stores and farmers’ markets, many Vermonters don’t have the environments or resources to access the regular nutrition they need.

For many Vermonters, a convenience store at a gas station may be the closest to their home, offering relatively low-cost, but low-nutritional value options. These foods are high in calories and sodium—they may do the job to temporarily end hunger pangs, but they can be a key cause of weight gain. Also, those who are food insecure may eat less or skip meals to stretch budgets, but may overeat when food becomes available. Chronic ups and downs in food intake can contribute to weight gain.

Studies show that at the beginning of the month when SNAP (aka food stamps or 3SquaresVT in Vermont) benefits are added to participants’ accounts, more fresh produce and meats are purchased. However, as the month drags on, benefits run out and those items are harder to afford. This is proof that it’s harder to make the healthy choice when cost is a barrier. When benefits run out, many families turn to their local food shelf, which can mean less control over the types of foods they receive. While there are many excellent initiatives in our state and nation to bring more fresh, local foods into our charitable food system, the fact is that they cannot meet the need. Food pantries and food shelves are often even harder for Vermonters to access than grocery stores either because of distance and/or limited operating hours. Helping Vermonters afford groceries through traditional channels like grocery stores and farmers’ markets is a crucial strategy toward ending food insecurity, and one for which Hunger Free Vermont is committed to fighting.

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