A few weeks ago, our partners at Hunger Free Vermont hosted their 3SquaresVT Basic Training in our South End Community Room. Olivia Peña and Phil Morin (Food Security Specialists at Hunger Free VT) embarked on a statewide tour earlier this year to offer this training for service providers and food advocates. At the most recent training (the second of two held in Burlington due to high demand) there were folks from Mercy Connections, Howard Center, Vermont Works for Women, and other organizations in our community who gathered together to get the rundown on 3SquaresVT.
The training began with an overview of hunger in Vermont to offer context for the vital importance of programs like 3SquaresVT. Phil and Olivia shared that 1 in 10 Vermonters are considered food insecure meaning they lack consistent access to enough food. Knowing who is eligible for 3SquaresVT, how to navigate the application process, and maximizing deductions can help advocates and service providers to better address food insecurity in our communities.
As the training outlined, 3SquaresVT is a nutrition program of the USDA, administered in our state by the Vermont Department for Children and Families. As a federal entitlement program, there is no limit to the amount of benefits that can be distributed, meaning that everyone who is eligible can receive benefits, rather than being limited to a certain number of households or individuals.
Benefits are distributed on the first of each month through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Over 600 retailers as well as 40+ farmers’ markets and farm stands around the state accept EBT. One of the most innovative programs we learned about at the training was Crop Cash, a program of NOFA Vermont, that doubles your 3SquaresVT benefits at farmers’ markets to increase purchasing power for local fruits, vegetables, and seed starters. A win-win for 3Squares participants and Vermont farmers! Check out the handy graphic below for more on how the program works.
Another great way to maximize your purchasing power as a 3SquaresVT participant is by becoming a Food for All Member here at City Market. By presenting proof of participation in 3SquaresVT, Federal Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Social Security Income, or Social Security Disability Income, you can become an FFA Member with a 10% discount store-wide (excluding alcohol, newspapers, bus passes, and stamps) and a 15% discount in our Bulk and Produce departments! In FY 2017, Food for All Members saved a total of $196, 558! To learn more, check out our website here.
As we wrapped up the training, Olivia and Phil shared some final thoughts on the importance of 3SquaresVT:
- Reduces hunger and poverty
- Connects Vermonters to more fresh, local food
- Connects Vermonters to other programs
- Helps schools qualify to provide universal meals
- Improves health (short and long term)
- Helps our economy
To learn more, check out these great resources on Hunger Free Vermont’s website:
Looking for other ways to help address hunger in your community? Join our Member Worker program and volunteer with organizations like Hunger Free Vermont, Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, Salvation Farms, Burlington School Food Project and others working to alleviate hunger in the community.