Donors give record amount of cash in this year’s ‘Load the Latchis’

BRATTLEBORO — Libby Bennett balanced on a stair stage left in the Latchis' main theater. Hunched over her calculator, the development director for Groundworks Collaborative counted the small piles of cash and checks that surrounded her.

Individual donors gave more than $3,000 in cash, checks, and online donations for the eighth annual “Load the Latchis” food drive.

Bennett double-checked the numbers. She smiled.

“This is the most we've received in cash donations during my tenure,” Bennett said.

Volunteers scooted and wove across the main theater scooping up bags of donated food. They packed the items destined for the Groundworks Food Shelf in heavy boxes. Then, the volunteers carried the boxes to Flat Street to a waiting truck.

From 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Aug. 23, community members stopped by the Latchis with food or money. By the end of the day, bags occupied approximately 413 seats, or more than half of the main theater's chairs.

Bennett said the collaborative is grateful for the food, personal hygiene items, and monetary donations.

According to Bennett, the food will probably go quickly. She said community members tend to use the food bank more near the end of the month, when many families have exhausted their 3SquaresVT funds.

She also noted that beneficiaries can't use 3SquaresVT dollars for nonfood items like hygiene products.

The cash donations will help Groundworks Food Shelf stretch its food budget further, Bennett said. The food shelf purchases supplemental food from the Vermont Food Bank, Bennett explained. The Food Bank keeps its prices low, so a donation of $20 can help feed a family of four for a month at the food shelf, she said.

According to the nonprofit Hunger Free Vermont, more than 64,000 Vermonters (and 14 percent of children under 18) live in food-insecure households, meaning their access to food is sporadic.

Hunger Free Vermont points to low wages as one of the culprits behind food insecurity. The organization estimates that more than 159,000 residents' incomes qualify them for federal programs like 3SquaresVT.

On its website, the Vermont Foodbank writes that it provides food to 225 programs including food shelves, meal sites, senior centers, and after-school programs.

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