There is help for the tens of thousands of people struggling to afford groceries

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There is help for the tens of thousands of people struggling to afford groceries

Tue, 10/26/2021 - 2:28am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Access to adequate mental health support and food will result in a healthier, more resilient Vermont. A 2021 study found hunger is associated with 257% higher risk of anxiety and a 253% higher risk of depression. Life during COVID-19 has only exacerbated these issues and made them even harder to manage.

Since the pandemic began, 1 in 3 people have experienced hunger, and many also face unemployment and financial hardship.

Hunger Free Vermont and COVID Support VT want you to know that there are a number of free resources available to help you put food on the table — and support your mental health.

Those who face economic disparities and barriers to affordable housing, employment, healthcare and mental healthcare, among other resources, are often most affected. Black and Hispanic households, women and households with children are even more at-risk to to experience hunger and associated stress.

Reliable access to healthy food is something we all deserve, yet tens of thousands of people in our state feel the emotional and financial effects of struggling to afford groceries.

Many of us are just one unexpected bill — a blown tire, a broken leg — away from experiencing food insecurity. This can be devastating for emotional health and overall well-being.

Through it all, resources are out there and available to help, including:

● COVID Support VT
COVID Support VT is working to help Vermonters ease the mental health impacts of the pandemic. Its Support Counselors provide emotional support through a call line, which is available by dialing 2-1-1 and selecting option 2. These services are entirely anonymous, free of charge, and available Monday-Friday. Counselors can help people explore coping skills, offer a pathway to community-based resources, and help with filling out applications to social service benefits — many of which alleviate food insecurity.

Because mental wellness is often dictated by the social contributors to mental health (food security, access to housing, childcare, long-term support systems and mental healthcare, employment), counselors use their knowledge of these systems to help callers problem-solve. This is particularly true for Vermonters who were financially impacted by

the pandemic and have experienced distress as a result. According to a recent study, losing a job during the pandemic is associated with a 32% increase in risk for anxiety and a 27% increase in risk for depression.

● 3SquaresVT
3SquaresVT can help families stretch their budgets and reduce money-related stress. Everyone who is eligible to receive 3SquaresVT benefits will get them with an approved application. Once enrolled in the program, people receive money every month on a discreet card that looks and works exactly like a debit card. More than 600 retailers and nearly 40 farmers markets across the state accept 3SquaresVT, so you can shop at a store that's local to you. 3SquaresVT benefits are higher than ever and continue to support the food budgets of nearly 70,000 people in Vermont.

● Hunger Free Vermont
Hunger Free Vermont is a statewide nonprofit organization that works with state agencies and community groups to develop sustainable hunger solutions. Since 1993 Hunger Free Vermont’s outreach programs and advocacy have substantially enhanced Vermont’s nutrition safety net and increased access to nutritious foods.

If you or someone you know is having a hard time making ends meet, please apply for 3SquaresVT. Calling 2-1-1 can help you learn about 3SquaresVT and other programs to help you get food.