Another food giveaway — this time at the Middlebury State Airport — drew thousands of Vermonters who lined the approaching roads on Wednesday and waited hours for provisions.
Many in line said they had never before experienced food insecurity. The scope of this and other food assistance events have been unparalleled in Vermont's modern history.
"My daughter came out of the driveway to get in line at seven o'clock, and the line was already way down [Route] 116 and around the corner," said Jason Murray, who lives on Airport Road. "She got back probably around 10:45."
"They're doing a good job, though," he added.
"They" are members of the Vermont National Guard, who through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Farmers to Families program distributed boxes of nonperishable food along with produce, chicken and dairy. Everyone was welcome.
Angela Scavo got out of her vehicle to stretch her legs during the wait.
"We are usually a two-income family," she said. "Right now, we're a one-income family. A little bit of food is helpful."
Similar events recently have drawn huge crowds. Last week, roughly 8,400 people descended on the state airport in Berlin. Organizers there distributed 1,000 Farmers to Family food kits, 3,036 sets of boxed meals, and 22,272 MREs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Vermont Foodbank spokesperson Nicole Whalen.
Wednesday, organizers distributed another 1,000 Farmers to Family food kits and 1,848 sets of nonperishable foods from FEMA, each of which contains about 15 meals.
"I'm just devastated that this is the state of our community right now, that this need exists," Whalen said, adding, "Here we live in the richest country in the world, and this is reality? It's unfathomable."
The Farmers to Family program helps, but does not satisfy people's needs, she said. She suggested the federal SNAP program could simply be expanded to allow people to select the foods they need — rather than waiting in the sun for hours.
Thursday, May 21, at Thetford Academy, 304 Academy Road, Thetford
Friday, May 22, the Lamoille Union High School, 736 VT Route 15 W, Hyde Park
Tuesday, May 26, at the North Avenue exit of Route 127, Burlington
Wednesday, May 27, Brattleboro Union High School, 131 Fairground Road, Brattleboro
Thursday, May 28, Franklin County Airport, 629 Airport Road, Swanton
Friday, May 29, Caledonia County State Airport, 2107 Pudding Hill Road, Lyndonville
Organizers ask families not to bring pets to the distribution points, and to wear masks. Sick people should ask somebody to go in their place. Expect to wait, organizers warn, and bring a drink and snacks.
"It feels good that there's actually somebody out there who wants to help people," Murray said, after his daughter got home. "It's good to see the soldiers out there helping people out. Everybody needs it, young, old."