BENNINGTON -- Harvest season is here, and a local charity is using the opportunity to highlight a problem facing a quarter of Bennington's families: Hunger.
"The issue is huge, and it's a hidden problem," said Sue Andrews, executive director of the Bennington Interfaith Community Services Inc.
Starting Oct. 19, the group, which runs the Kitchen Cupboard, the Food and Fuel Fund, and the Bennington Free Clinic, will be working on a series of events to call attention to hunger in the community, a problem Andrews expects to get worse on Oct. 30 when the average family on 3SquaresVT (Food Stamps) will see benefits cut by between five and 10 percent.
Andrews said some of the events the interfaith community is planning for that week are ones it has done before, but this year it is making a stronger push to get more people involved.
She said the stimulus package, passed during the economic crisis, upped 3SquaresVT benefits for many families, but Congress did not renew the funding. Coupled with the uncertainty being cast by the government shutdown in effect, people are worried. Andrews said even a loss of $11 per week, while not sounding like much to most, can mean three days of food.
The first event on Oct. 19 will be a service learning project hosted by Congregation Beth El located on North Street. Andrews said volunteers will be directed to the various places in town that work to address hunger in the community.
On Oct. 20, a CROP walk will start at 1 p.m. from the Second Congregational Church on Hillside Street and go for about three miles as it tours various food shelves such as the Kitchen Cupboard on Gage Street and the one at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church at 238 Main St. Andrews said this event has been going on for years and attracts between 50 and 60 walkers, who may show up half an hour early to register. She said those who can't walk make pledges for those who do, and the event raises about $1,000 -- three quarters of which goes to help food programs in countries where food access is a problem.
The week will also include showings of two films, "Harvest of Shame" a 1960 documentary by Edward Murrow chronicling the lives of itinerant farmers during that era, and "A Place at the Table," a 2012 documentary directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush about families experiencing hunger.
The showings will be at 7 p.m. "Harvest of Shame" will show on Oct. 21 at Congregation Beth El, while "A Place at the Table" will show on Oct. 22 at the Second Congregational Church. For Oct. 23 and 24 they will be played at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on School Street, with "Harvest of Shame" playing the first night.
The week will be capped by the annual Bennington Empty Bowls Soup Supper, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 200 Pleasant St. Andrews said the cost is $10 to attend and the event has been quite a success in past years.
She said throughout the year locals create bowls which they then decorate and donate to the event. Those who attend grab one of the some 600 bowls and get to eat soup supplied by local restaurants and eateries. Andrews said the event raises money through underwriting and after a few years people have started to donate bowls they have purchased from the event itself.
If more information is needed, Andrews can be reached at 802-379-0149.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.