There Are Hungry and Homeless In Burlington?

Saturday evening, instead of going out to Quiznos or Al’s French Fries for dinner, I went to the Hunger Banquet. Amongst vibrant streamers and balloons, students and members of the Burlington community mingled, sharing a meal and uniting against hunger over the Top Cats serenading us with “Kiss The Girl.” The Hunger Banquet is run by VIA’s (Volunteers In Action) Food Salvage program, which was created to serve healthy meals every Sunday evening and serves anywhere between 70 and 100 plus Burlington community members. Local restaurants and grocery stores donated huge aluminum tins of baked ziti and sandwiches and we paid $5 at the door for an all-you-can-eat buffet, proceeds going to COTS – the Committee On Temporary Shelter. COTS helps hundreds of Vermonters transition back to permanent housing and self-sufficiency. But COTS is not merely a shelter, COTS provides workshops in budgeting, parenting, nutrition and conflict resolution and even offers tutoring and homework clubs for children. Last year, more than 70% of individuals who completed the COTS vocational program found full-time jobs. An organization like COTS deserves praise and recognition for the indispensable services it gives to our community. “Hunger and homelessness are serious issues in Burlington that aren’t talked about enough. We’re just here to raise money and awareness,” said Rom Marcucci, Program Coordinator of Food Salvage, as he sat down to take a break, eat a heaping plate of food, and answer a few of my questions. His comment was right on the money: UVM students don’t know much about these problems that our community (yes, Burlington) has. To be frank, I never really thought about these things either. The Burlington that I always see is the Church Street Marketplace and the waterfront, not the homeless digging through students’ trash late at night for cans and bottles that they can turn in for fifteen cents each. Recently a friend and I were strolling down Main Street and decided, for the sake of a change of scenery, to take a new route down to Church Street. We ended up walking past The Salvation Army on North Winooski, where a line of Burlingtonites stretched from inside all the way down the block. I wondered why there were so many people at the Salvation Army, “Is there a sale or something?” What I finally realized was that the Salvation Army was not having a sale – it was just a regular week-night and the hungry in Burlington were lined up for their nightly meal. Here at UVM, we get so caught up in our schoolwork and social lives that we don’t realize what’s going on right here in Burlington. My plea to you is this: take a different route back to campus or take a Sunday evening and serve meals with Food Salvage. Get aware and get involved.