Interview with Local Food Shelves
UV Strong talked to Amber Johnson, director of community education and volunteer services at the Upper Valley Haven, and Mary Stoddard, coordinator of the Sharon Food Shelf. They broke down what their new processes look like and emphasized that they have received many generous donations from community members. Both encouraged everyone, including those who have never visited before but need to now, to take advantage of their services. A full list of Upper Valley food resources can be found here:
UV Strong: Do you have enough food?
Mary: Yes, we have a lot of food right now.
Amber: Yes, we are working really hard to make sure that we can provide enough food.
What is the process when someone arrives at your food shelf?
Mary: Since the COVID shutdown we have changed our procedures. We now have two ramps, an entrance and an exit ramp. When you arrive, you’ll come up to the entrance ramp and speak to us through a glass door. We have pre packaged bags and boxes, as well as other options that we can discuss. Once we get the order, we pack everything up and leave it on the ramp outside the exit door. Also, if you’re unable to carry the packages to your car, we can bring them out and put them in your trunk.
Amber: We are totally focused on personal safety and service. If you’re coming for our Food Shelf you check in outside at the window in the front of our main building. We installed an intercom, so it’s easy to hear and speak. The registrar will take your information and ask what type of food you want. We have a menu of available items so everyone gets what they want. A volunteer packs your box up for you and will bring it outside. While you wait, you can shop outside at our tent for produce, bread, desserts, and other items. We get lots of great special items donated each day. Families can come once a month for the food shelf, but you can come every single day of the work week, Monday through Friday, for the items underneath our tent. For tent items you don’t need to check in, but someone will ask for some basic information such as your name and town.
Do you have to prove where you live or that you have a need?
Mary: No, you don’t. You don’t have to be a Sharon resident, and you are not asked to prove you have a need. We have a card system, and if you don’t have a card we’ll make you a new one. The only required information on the card is your name and how many people in your family. We want to make sure you get the right amount of food for the number of people in your household. We also like to ask what town you’re coming from.
Amber: No, we’re open to anybody in both Vermont and New Hampshire. As always, the Haven has no economic or geographic restrictions. We ask for some demographic information to make sure that we’re providing the best possible service, but you do not need any kind of documentation. It’s really important to us for everybody to know that we’re here for them.
What would you say to someone who is possibly recently unemployed and has never visited a food shelf but needs to now?
Mary: Please come take advantage of it! We have gotten so many donations recently from people all around the area. People would like to help you out, so please take advantage. If you are having to think about paying bills or buying food, come to the Food Shelf and get some free food.
Amber: Please come, that’s why we’re here! It’s really easy to shop and obtain food at the Haven. We are seeing an increase in new households, and we want to make sure everybody has access to food. At the Haven, we make sure everyone feels welcome.
The Haven is located at 713 Hartford Avenue, White River Junction, VT 05001. The hours for the food shelf and bread and produce racks are: Monday through Friday, 9am to 3pm. Other times can be made available by calling the Haven main number at 802-295-6500. The food shelf is available once a month for each family. There are no restrictions on use for the bread and produce racks which are located under the tent.
The Sharon Food Shelf is located at the Lighthouse, across the street from the Sharon Church. The hours are: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30pm to 6:30pm. During April and May they will also open on Saturdays from 10 to noon. The Sharon Food Shelf can be reached at: 802 763 2007.