Courtesy of Vermont Foodbank
Pallets of MREs in the Barre warehouse of the Vermont Foodbank
The Vermont National Guard
will distribute MREs — or Meals Ready-to-Eat — to Vermonters at five airports across the state starting Wednesday, April 22, at the Franklin County State Airport in Swanton.
The distribution of the pre-packaged meals from FEMA, a program operated in collaboration with the Vermont Foodbank
, is meant to address a substantial increase in Vermonters’ need for food assistance. The surge in demand is due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesman for the Vermont National Guard told Seven Days
on Tuesday that 12 to 15 guard members will be on-site with the capacity to provide roughly 26,880 MREs per day.
The Vermont Foodbank works with some 215 partner groups across the state, including local food shelves, meal sites and senior centers. CEO John Sayles said in a press release that the Barre-based nonprofit has seen anywhere from 30 percent to 100 percent increases in the need for food assistance. The need is different depending on the partner organization, according to the Foodbank.
“This is straining the capacity of the charitable food system," Sayles explained in the release. He added that the MRE distribution points "will help get additional meals to people while taking some pressure off our network of food shelves and meals sites.”
Those who need MREs can drive to the distribution site nearest them where a member of the Guard will place the meals in the trunk of their car. People who are sick or in quarantine, or without transportation, can ask a friend to go to the airport and get the MREs for them, according to the Foodbank.
The MRE distribution will operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the following sites and dates:
- Wednesday, April 22, Franklin County State Airport in Swanton
- Friday, April 24, Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport in North Clarendon
- Wednesday, April 29, Hartness State Airport in North Springfield
- Thursday, April 30, William H. Morse State Airport in Bennington
- Friday, May 1, Northeast Kingdom International Airport in Newport
- Friday, May 1, Folsom Education Center in South Hero
The continued need for the program will be assessed based on the response to the initial distributions, according to Nicole Whalen, the Foodbank's director of communications and public affairs.
"These are such unprecedented circumstances," she said. "It's really hard to know what the community response and interest in the MRES will be.
"We know that the charitable food system is reaching capacity," she continued. "This will supplement and help release some pressure from that system."
Later this week, the Vermont Foodbank will launch a partnership with ShiftMeals
, an initiative founded by the Skinny Pancake that provides free meals to Vermonters who are in need. The Foodbank intends to distribute 20,000 meals in the next month through ShiftMeals, Whalen said.
Packing food at Feeding Chittenden
In Chittenden County, the number of people receiving food from a meals program
at Feeding Chittenden
continues to grow. Chef Jim Logan said his team, with volunteer help, is making and delivering about 9,000 meals a week, up from roughly 7,000 meals per week two weeks ago.
The meals, three per day, are for people living at hotels, motels and other lodging facilities through the state’s emergency housing program. The number of rooms in use for that program has increased from 45 on March 18 to 383 today, according to the Agency of Human Services.