BRATTLEBORO—It’s a busy Monday afternoon at the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center, and Food Shelf Coordinator Denise Nuccio knows why.
“It’s the last week of the month, and people are running out of money,” she said.
The waiting room is jammed with people waiting for their turn to go into the food shelf area to pick enough groceries to get through the remainder of the month — until their next 3SquaresVT payment comes in.
Nuccio has already made two trips this day to Vermont Foodbank’s warehouse on Putney Road and stuffed her small SUV with various surplus food items that the Foodbank needed to clear out in a hurry.
She called clients to her car and told them to take what they needed. The SUV was empty within two hours.
Nuccio has only been on the job for a month, but she is able to control the chaos around her and make sure people will walk away with what they need.
Lucie Fortier, the Drop In Center’s executive director, said she’s been making changes to the food shelf as the mix of food that’s available from the Foodbank has changed.
“We’re not getting as many canned goods and pre-packaged food from the Foodbank, so the focus has shifted to healthier eating,” Fortier said. “But we still need canned goods for our homeless guys, so we try to put some aside for them.”
Last summer, Fortier said her food shelf started getting more fresh fruits and vegetables. With winter lingering, the fresh veggies have dwindled down to bags of potatoes, carrots, and onions, and the food shelf staff is making the best of what it gets.
More cheese is showing up, as Cabot Creamery and Grafton Village Cheddar donate more of their products. And grocery stores are donating their short-dated baked goods and meats, freezing items before they hit their expiration date.
The food donated from the Feed The Thousands food drive in December is nearly gone, and Fortier said that the Drop In Center always appreciates donation of non-perishables for their clients — think tuna, peanut butter, pasta and sauces, dry milk, soups and crackers, rice and instant potatoes, canned and boxed meals, canned fruits and vegetables, juices, cereal, and canned protein such as beans and meats.
The need doesn’t end because the holidays, and a long winter since, already have, Fortier suggested.