February 2017

Run for the Board of Directors!

 

It’s our very local election time! Please consider running for MNFC’s Board of Directors.  Spring arrives this month and with it the time when Middlebury Natural Food Co-op member-owners have an opportunity to participate more fully in the overall wellbeing of the Co-op.

 

We invite all member-owners to consider running for open seats on the Board of Directors. The voting takes place during the month of May. Elected winners are announced at the MNFC Annual Meeting, and new board members begin their term at the June Board of Directors Meeting.  There are four open seats this election season. Please see the information for potential candidates below. Applications are due must be received by Tuesday, March 14, 2017

 

Board of Directors Applications are available here.

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Open Letter to Potential Board Candidates

Thank you for your interest in serving on the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op’s Board of Directors. The election packet provides you with an overview of Board functions and responsibilities to help you make your decision about running for the Board.  Please contact Kate Gridley (kmgridley@gmail.com) or any member of the Board for further information.

 

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is the legal representative of the member-owners of the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op and thus is responsible for the overall wellbeing of the Co-op.  The Board exercises its responsibilities through its relationship with the General Manager, whom it hires and monitors. It is made up of 11 directors and one non-voting staff representative.  Each term of office is three years, and terms are staggered so no more than four terms expire each year. There are no term limits.

 

Powers and Duties

  • Provide linkage between the Board and member-owners.
  • Create policies that are consistent with cooperative principals and MNFC Ends. (Policy Governance-see below)
  • Monitor management performance on implementing policy.
  • Work to perpetuate the cooperative.

(Operations are the sole responsibility of the General Manager.)

 

Qualifications of Candidates

  • Be or become a member of the Co-op in good standing.
  • Express yourself in a clear, concise manner.
  • Work in a group and support decisions made by consensus.
  • Devote the time necessary to accomplish Board objectives and fulfill your term.
  • Communicate electronically using email and the Board’s web-based information sharing program.
  • Understand financial statements or be willing to learn through instruction.

 

Expectations for Directors

  • Make a three-year commitment to the Board of Directors.
  • Attend two Board orientation sessions and a training for cooperative boards in the first two years of your term. This is a one-day session typically held In Brattleboro on a Saturday in January. (MNFC pays for travel expenses).
  • Have familiarity with and adherence to the Co-op’s by-laws and Board policies.
  • Prepare for and attend monthly Board meetings (6:30-8:30pm, usually on the fourth Wednesday of the month at the Co-op), sub-committee meetings, a day-long annual retreat (early February), the Co-op’s Annual Meeting (early June) and Co-op community events. Time commitment averages 3-4 hours per month.
  • Take responsibility for Board duties and work together with understanding, mutual support and respect to make decisions that will enhance the viability of the Co-op.
  • Keep information and materials confidential when appropriate.

            

Policy Governance

The Board of Directors of MNFC operates using the model of Policy Governance. This model of leadership results in the General Manager making all operational decisions. Rather, the Board focuses its attention on the strategic direction of the Co-op, engaging with member-owners and monitoring management performance. Policies are developed by the Board outlining how the Board functions, how authority is delegated to management, what limitations management may have and to define Ends toward which management works. Management then reports to the Board in written monitoring reports as to compliance or non-compliance with these policies.

 

Compensation

In recognition of the time and commitment required to prepare for and attend meetings, required trainings and events, directors receive a stipend of $ 600/year plus a 10% discount on all purchases (except alcohol) at the Co-op.

Committee chairs and Executive Officers receive additional stipends.

 

 

Applications should be submitted to Kate Gridley.

 

Via email:

kmgridleygmail.com

 

Or

 

Regular mail to:

 

Kate Gridley,

c/o Middlebury natural Foods Co-op,

1 Washington Street

Middlebury, Vermont 05753

 

 

Applications are due by Tuesday, March 14, 2017

 

Spotlight on Westbrae

Westbrae Natural Foods is basking in the Member Deals Spotlight this week and all of their products are 20% off for member-owners from February 23rd – March 1st. Read on to learn more about their history of offering healthy foods for nearly 40 years!

 

Westbrae’s original co-founder Kristen Brun launched the business with partner Bob Gerner based on a simple idea – she wanted to do something for the planet, and something good for the people on both sides of the counter. That was way back in 1970 and though the company has evolved significantly over the years, they remain true to this original philosophy.

Bob Gerner and Kristin Brun initially offered their customers homemade granola, organic vegetables from Bob’s garden, organic fruits from local farmers and whole grain baked goods using Kristin’s recipes. In the late 1980s, the business was sold to a group of food-savvy investors, relocated to southern California, and continued to grow. The Research and Development Department expanded the Westbrae Natural line and achieved leadership in the natural products industry

In 1997, Westbrae was acquired by The Hain Food Group (now known as Hain Celestial), which is headquartered in Melville, New York. Available in natural food stores as well as mainstream supermarkets, Westbrae Natural’s array of vegetarian foods includes beans, soymilk, miso, mustard, and more.

Be sure to check out their website for great recipes!

 

NFCA Statement on Diversity & Inclusion

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation bringing together 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives throughout New England that are working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable regional food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. Our Co-op is a proud member of NFCA and in light of recent occurrences of political, social, and economic division, the NFCA Board of Directors released the following statement to clarify our collective position on these events:

 

For over 170 years, the Co-operative Movement has stood for ideals of democracy, empowerment and inclusion — ideals that are at the heart of the America’s journey as a nation, and that we continue to strive toward today. From our beginnings, co-ops have celebrated human diversity and worked to bring people together to meet our needs and achieve our aspirations. In short, we believe that we are better when we are welcoming, when we lift one another up, and when we work together to make life better for everyone.

In keeping with the principles of the International Co-operative Alliance, our food co-ops work to ensure that our doors are open to all persons, “without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.” As community-owned enterprises, we value respectful dialog, debate, and participation as expressions of economic democracy. As organizations of people who depend on a healthy planet to survive and thrive, we are committed to development policies and strategies that will sustain our communities over time.

Today, we are witnessing levels of political, social, and economic division that we believe do not reflect our ideals as a nation. While we honor differences of opinion, we are concerned that actions by this administration are fundamentally at odds with American principles of democracy, diversity and inclusion, as well as co-operative values of equality, solidarity, and caring for others. Specifically, we are seeing initiatives that we believe undermine human rights, immigration policies that exclude people based on their origin and religious beliefs, and initiatives that undercut efforts to slow climate change.

In this context, we reaffirm our commitment to being not just welcoming businesses, but empowering community enterprises. We seek to be a positive resource and influence, presenting opportunities for constructive dialog and collective action for change. And we will explore ways that we can reach beyond our walls, advocating for policies that will contribute to democracy and equality, advance human rights, and support environmental sustainability.

As a federation of community-owned food co-ops, we seek to empower people to enjoy healthier lives, build stronger local communities, and provide good jobs. We advocate for a deeper sense of corporate social responsibility that includes democratic ownership, the full expression of human diversity and the needs of future generations. In taking this stand, we acknowledge that we can always do better and must challenge ourselves to live up to our values and principles. By working together, we believe that we can help build stronger communities, a more inclusive nation, and a better world for everyone.

Sincerely,

The Board of Directors & Staff of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association

Bone Broth Benefits

Bone broth may be thousands of years old, but it’s arguably the hottest thing going in the food world right now. It’s being hailed by nutritionists and foodies alike for its irresistible depth of flavor and a jaw-dropping list of healing properties. Who doesn’t want to sip something delicious that also happens to boost immunity, squash inflammation, enhance energy, mental focus, and mood while improving their hair, skin, bones, teeth, and nails? It all sounds too good to be true for something so simple, right?

At its essence, bone broth is nothing more than a humble combination of bones and water simmered for a few hours. Of course, one can choose to spice it up by tossing in veggie scraps, cheese rinds, herbs, and seasonings, but it’s also fine to keep it simple. You won’t even need any fancy equipment. Just a large, deep (non-aluminum) pot or slow cooker, a colander or fine mesh strainer, and a long-handled spoon will suffice.

When choosing bones for your broth look for collagen and cartilage-rich bones like knuckles, feet, joints, necks, heads, and tails. It’s also great to add skins and/or meatier bones. Mixing leftover cooked bones from meals earlier in the week with raw bones is perfectly fine. Mixing bones from different kinds of animals is fine, too. You can brown, roast, or parboil your raw bones first, or just toss them in raw and naked as they came. Experts recommend using bones from organic, grass or pasture-fed animals to ensure your healing broth is free of antibiotics & hormones, and rich in all the wonderful things that come from an animal raised eating its natural diet.

Louise Hay and Heather Dane, authors of The Bone Broth Secret, recommend that you fill your pot 2/3 full with bones, cover the bones with filtered water, bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and simmer for a minimum of 3 hours. Of course, if you’re including veggies or other add-ins, adjust the bone quantity accordingly.

When your bone broth is done, strain out the solids using a metal colander and reserve the remaining liquid in glass jars or similar containers. Once your broth is cooled, you’ll have a jiggly, gelatinized base with a fat cap on top. The fat cap helps preserve your broth, so keep it on top until you’re ready to consume it. You may choose to freeze your broth or use it right away. You may also choose to consume the fat cap, or skim it off. This fat is particularly healthy fat for consumption, so if you choose not to consume it as part of your broth, be sure to save it for using in other recipes. Now you can opt to sip your bone broth as-is, use it as a base for sauces, incorporate it into other recipes, or use it as a base for a soup. It’s very versatile!

Here are a few of the key reasons to incorporate bone broth into your diet:

  • Bioavailable Collagen – You may be accustomed to seeing collagen-touting products in the face and body care aisle, but it turns out that this incredible protein is abundant in bone broth. The broth delivers it in a form that is already broken down into gelatin, which is easily digested and assimilated in the body. It is responsible for healthy skin, hair, nails, teeth, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. It also helps keep our muscles strong, aids cellular growth, helps normalize stomach acid, and supports the organs of our digestive system making it particularly healing for sufferers of conditions such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), leaky gut syndrome, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
  • Bioavailable Nutrients – The exact breakdown varies depending on the types of bones and other add-ins you use, but generally you can expect an abundant bounty of amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats contributing to elevated mood, energy, focus, and hormone balance. These nutrients are conveniently delivered in predigested forms that are readily utilized by our bodies.
  • Less Waste- Bone broth is kind to your budget and to our planet. Using all parts of an animal nose-to-tail is far less wasteful than if that animal is harvested only for the choice cuts of meat, especially when one considers the inputs required to raise that animal. Plus, the bones and cheaper cuts of meat are actually better for our bodies, containing more collagen, glycosaminoglycans, and essential fatty acids than the pricier, choice cuts of meat. When you use bones leftover from other meals, along with your veggies scraps from the week, you create something beautiful, flavorful, and healthy from items that would otherwise be destined for the compost pile. That’s really making the most of your food budget!

To learn more about the incredible benefits of bone broth and discover flavorful recipes, visit the book section of the Co-op and look for The Bone Broth Secret by Louise Hay & Heather Dane and/or Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon Morell.

 

Spotlight on Annie’s

We’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on Annie’s this week to highlight their mission to “make organic for everybunny”. All of Annie’s products are 20% off for member-owners from February 16th – 22nd, so it’s a great time to stock up and save on all of your favorites. Read on to learn more about Annie’s history and mission:

History

It all began in 1989 with a young lady named Annie Withey who believed it was possible to start a business that was both socially conscious and successful. Annie started by making delicious mac & cheese and selling it out of the trunk of her car.  Now, nearly 30 years later Annie’s remains devoted to the business of good: creating good food, demonstrating good business practices, and helping build good communities.

Organic Commitment

The folks at Annie’s feel passionate about increasing access to organic foods. They focus on organic ingredients because they believe they’re better for you and for farmers, animals, and the environment. Certified Organic always means non-GMO, avoiding toxic, persistent pesticides, and so much more. We all benefit when there are fewer chemicals in our soils, water, food and air. Click here to read more about Annie’s commitment to organic.

Giving Back

In addition to offering an array of healthy and organic foods, Annie’s is proud to support the next generation of farmers committed to sustainable farming practices. They have two wonderful programs to help achieve this end:

Through their Grants for Gardens program, they’ve funded hundreds of school gardens to help kids connect with the source of their nourishment, encouraging them to think more holistically about their food, their communities, and the planet.

Thanks to their Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship Program, they’re able to offer $150,000 yearly in funds to college students studying sustainable agriculture. This year, 15 winners will each be eligible to receive $10,000 from Annie’s to help kickstart their adventures in sustainable farming.

When you buy Annie’s products, you cast a vote in support food education and make healthy gardens accessible to hundreds of students across the country.

Keeping it Green

Packaging:  The crew at Annie’s recognize the large role that product packaging plays in pollution and climate change. The natural resources required to make packaging is just the start. Yes, plenty of packaging is recyclable or compostable, but when it ends up in a landfill, it might give off methane, a potent greenhouse gas. If it’s incinerated instead, it releases CO2 into the atmosphere. And packaging that weighs more requires more fossil fuels to transport. Annie’s works hard to take all of this into account, using sustainable materials that are recyclable or compostable and light to transport.

Facilities:  Annie’s has maintained both LEED Gold and Bay Area Green Business Certifications since 2013 at their Berkeley, CA headquarters. In 2016, they received the Climate Disruptor award, recognizing their efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. Additionally, they monitor and encourage energy efficient practices among their suppliers, gaining insight into the supplier’s energy practices, greenhouse emissions, water use and waste output. To encourage improvement, they give an Annual Green Bernie Award to an exemplary supplier demonstrating continuous improvement for at least two years in a row and documenting high performance in one or more of these areas: energy, waste, water, and climate change.

Be sure to check out their web page for fun recipes!

Spotlight on Aura Cacia

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Aura Cacia this week to highlight all of the wonderful things this cooperative does to source and provide quality products while also giving back to their community. All of their products are 30% off for member-owners from February 9th – 15th — just in time to put together the perfect DIY spa kit for your Valentine! Read on to learn more about what makes this company worthy of the Spotlight:

 

As part of Frontier Co-op, Aura Cacia shares the cooperative values of nourishing people and planet. They care for the small grower communities at the source of their products, openly share product information, show their customers how to improve their lives with aromatherapy and give back to help those in need.

Aura Cacia is committed to both quality products and quality of life. They offer outstanding products made from simple and pure botanical ingredients that improve the well-being of those who use them. They test every shipment of essential oil they receive to verify its purity and quality.

As they travel the world to find top-quality essential oils, they encourage sustainable growing that preserves and improves land and resources for the future. Click here to learn more about Frontier Co-op’s sourcing.

As part of Frontier Co-op’s far-reaching sustainable sourcing initiatives, they support the growers’ communities with charitable projects that fundamentally improve people’s lives. They’ve created the Positive Change Project to give back a portion of each Aura Cacia purchase to organizations that help women bring positive change to their lives. Through this project thus far, they’ve been able to:

  • Provide a $25,000 grant to Thistle Farms, a social enterprise for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. Thistle Farms provides a two-year residential program and employs more than 50 survivors.
  • Fund the building of a two-room Ambohimena Schoolhouse within sight of the trees where the Aura Cacia ylang-ylang farming families work. These families needed an affordable option for early childhood education, so Aura Cacia worked with local educators and social workers to develop a plan for a simple, local facility where the pickers children can enjoy learning, thus helping them to better lives in the future.The school has about 50 two- to five-year-olds enrolled, with the capacity for 60 children.
  • Help rebuild the Haiti Library in the city of Les Cayes after the earthquake in 2010. Aura Cacia’s vetiver essential oil supplier is in Haiti and Haiti is the world’s largest producer of vetiver.
Ambohimena School
Ylang-Ylang fields in Madagascar

Be sure to check out Aura Cacia’s impressive collection of recipes to unleash the full potential of their essential oils. Whether you’re looking for DIY recipes for facial care, body care, or home cleaning products, they’ve got something for you!

Spotlight on Organic Valley

We’re shining our Co-op spotlight this week on America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers – Organic Valley!  All Organic Valley products are 20% off for member-owners from February 2nd – 8th! Read on to learn more about Organic Valley’s rich history, their commitment to their farmer-owners, and to the environment:

In the 1980’s, a dairy farming crisis was underway. The price for milk fell below production costs and the dairy farmers producing it were facing economic extinction. Farmers were told to “get big or get out”. Industrial, chemical farming was presented as the only existing option for survival. Never mind its effects on our health, our animals, and our environment.

There were many farmers who simply didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers at the mercy of corporate agriculture. Thankfully, in 1988 a Wisconsin farmer named George Siemon hung posters calling like-minded farmers in his community to band together. Family farmers filled the Viroqua county courthouse and all agreed that there had to be a better, more sustainable way to continue doing the work they loved in a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how their farmer-owned cooperative was born.

This pioneering group of farmers set high organic standards, which eventually served as the framework for the USDA’s organic rules. The cooperative first focused on organic vegetables, calling themselves the CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool) Cooperative, and within a year they expanded to include organic dairy. Demand for their organic products grew, as did farmers’ interest in joining the thriving cooperative. Interest came from farmers and consumers all over the country, and it became clear that they needed a new name to represent their broader base. With that, the CROPP cooperative became Organic Valley. 

 

Now, almost 30 years later, Organic Valley continues to produce some of the highest quality organic dairy, vegetables, soy, and eggs. They remain farmer-owned and remain true to the powerful working model that puts the environment, wholesome quality food, and the farmer first.

Click HERE to read more about the family of farmers that make up the Organic Valley Co-op and find out if there are any near you!

Click HERE for the top 5 reasons to choose organic.

Click HERE to read about sustainability initiatives at Organic Valley.

Click HERE for fabulous recipes.

Co-op Connection Business of the Month – Otter Creek Yoga

Do you long to be calmer and more centered? Do you carry the strain of the world in your neck, shoulders, and back?  Could you use a generous helping of self-care? Consider checking out our February Co-op Connection Business of the Month – Otter Creek Yoga! Let them know that you’re a Co-op member-owner and your first class is free! Wouldn’t that be a lovely Valentine gift to give yourself? 

For 10 years, Otter Creek Yoga has offered our community an oasis of calm and healing – a place to come home to your true self. Their beautiful, peaceful, sunny studio is located in Middlebury’s historic Marbleworks and offers daytime, evening, and weekend classes for all ages and all levels of experience. Click here for detailed descriptions of the classes offered.

The Otter Creek Yoga faculty includes a total of nine experienced, certified, skilled instructors practicing a variety of yoga disciplines, including two certified Iyengar teachers. Click here to read more about the instructors and the various types of yoga they offer. Director Joanna Colwell founded Otter Creek Yoga in 2006 and it was Addison County’s first yoga studio! Joanna loves being a full-time yoga teacher and sharing this practice with students of all ages and abilities. She’s especially interested in exploring the ways in which yoga practice can be a method of self-care and believes that our ability to care for ourselves positively influences how we care for our families, our community, and the world around us. She invites us all to “come take a deep, cleansing breath, and then another. Let go of what you no longer need. Breathe in compassion – for yourself, your family, and your world. Breathe out peace and calm.”

Rally for Change for John Graham Housing & Services February 9 – 15

It’s winter in Vermont.  While most of us are cozy in front of our wood stoves and heaters, hundreds of Vermonters have no place to call home. No place to cook a meal, get warm, take a shower, or do homework. No place where they feel safe and secure.  For thousands of homeless Vermonters, John Graham Housing and Services has been the answer to this enormous challenge.

During the week of February 9-15, you can help them answer that challenge by rounding up your total at the register (or donating even more, if you can!).  The Co-op will match whatever is raised by our shoppers and donate it to this amazing organization.  The Shelter will use the Rally for Change funds to deliver healthy food to homeless families and individuals living at their five buildings, and to provide first month’s rent and deposits directly to people who are moving into permanent housing. In other words, every cent raised through the Rally for Change will go directly food and housing for homeless people.

Since 1980, John Graham Housing and Services has been providing:

  • Food, Shelter and Housing
  • Services and Support to help transform lives
  • Prevention and Intervention in times of crisis

The organization began as a shelter for individuals, but about twelve years ago, it evolved into  an emergency shelter that could also accommodate families.  Today, in addition to providing emergency shelter for around 25 people at their main building in downtown Vergennes, John Graham also owns and operates other housing units in town, as well as in Bristol and Middlebury.  Each year, John Graham helps find housing and support services for around 200 individuals.  While many of these clients use the services of their emergency shelter, many more benefit from assistance with long term housing, which helps them establish a rental history and move on to more self-sufficient housing opportunities.  Many clients also benefit from clinical support services, to help with the mental and emotional health issues that so often go hand in hand with homelessness.  Please take a few minutes to watch this video about the shelter.

A note from John Graham Housing and Services:

As a state, we have made tremendous progress in ending homelessness. The number of homeless individuals dropped by 29% from January 2014 to January 2016. And yet still, well over a thousand Vermonters will live outside or in emergency shelter this winter.

With your help, we can provide food, shelter, and hope to transform the lives of our neighbors.

The following is a report about the state of homelesness in Vermont, from the John Graham Housing & Services web site:

Putting Homelessness into Perspective

HOUSING IS TOO EXPENSIVE FOR VERMONT’S WORKING FAMILIES

There is not a single state in the country where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford a market-rate one or two-bedroom rental.14 Vermont is no exception. Rising rents, stagnating wages, and an extreme lack of affordable housing mean that Vermont families have less and less access to safe and stable housing. At the same time, rates of homelessness are on the rise, and families are staying longer in shelters.

The 2015 statewide average for a market-rate two-bedroom apartment was $1,076. In Chittenden County it was $1,328.17 In order to afford these rents without being cost burdened (see sidebar), a full-time worker would need to make between $20.69 and $25.54 an hour. In other words, a household relying on minimum wage would need to work 111 hours per week- or nearly three full time jobs-to afford market- rate rent in Burlington.15

Renters in Chittenden County are among the most cost-burdened in New England.16 More than half (53 percent) of renter households in Chittenden County pay more than 30 percent of their income towards rent, and 28 percent spend more than half of their income on rent. Cost burdens are nearly as high in Vermont as a whole, with 48 percent of renter households in the state spending more than 30 percent, and 24 percent spending than half-or more-of their income on rent.17

The impossible choice between shelter, adequate food, childcare, heating, and healthcare is a significant stressor for thousands of cost-burdened Vermont families. There are no good places to cut corners when there is not enough money for basic necessities.

At John Graham, most able residents work full-time and are still unable to afford decent housing. In order to bridge the gap between low wages and high cost of living, we work to connect clients with the programs and subsidies they need for their families to thrive.

The Fair Market Rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Addison County is $946. If we assume that rent is 30% of income, a family would need to earn $3,153 monthly or $37,840 each year to keep up with the bills.

Most of the parents we serve work at stores, gas stations, restaurants, farms or at entry level manufacturing jobs. They just can’t afford rising rent. To add to the problem, there are not enough affordable rental units available. The lower the income threshold, the greater the shortage of affordable and available units. Addison County has fewer than 30 units available for every 100 households with very low incomes!

In addition, many contributing factors of stress on individuals foments widespread drug abuse. Opiate addictions in VT increased by 770% between 2000 and 2014. Deaths from overdose have multiplied in recent years. And the number of alleged child abuse or neglect cases filed in courts across Vermont has also climbed. Some experts attribute this rise to the impact of opiate addiction and increased homelessness on child safety.

 

LOW VACANCY RATES

A contributing factor to Vermont’s high rents is the extremely low vacancy rate statewide. Approximately 29 percent of Vermont families are renters, but there is an extreme shortage of affordable rental units. While nationwide vacancy rates hover around 7 percent, Vermont faces a 1 percent vacancy rate.18

Subsidized units and units with more than three bedrooms for larger families are in particularly short supply, with zero percent vacancy and long wait lists in large renter areas like Chittenden County.19 The result is that low-income families are increasingly pushed into overcrowded and substandard housing.20

 

ENERGY BURDENS

Families struggling with unaffordable housing costs often face impossible choices between essential expenses. In Vermont, harsh winters make heating costs a crucial budget item, but 20 percent of state residents spend an unaffordable amount of their income on fuel. Vermont is consistently the least affordable state in the country when energy costs are measured as a percent of household budgets.22

A household that spends more than 10% of its income on fuel is considered to be “Fuel Poor.” According to a recent report by the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity, 125,000, or 1 in 5, Vermonters were fuel poor in 2012, up 76 percent since the year 2000. The poorest 30 percent of households spent an average of one sixth of their income on fuel, and nearly 60 percent were considered fuel poor. 23 In the 13,000 households surviving on less than half of the federal poverty level, 56 percent of income went to energy costs.24

While fuel poverty is much more common and extreme among low-income households, a substantial number of Vermonters at all income levels are classified as Fuel Poor. Expensive fuel, energy-inefficient homes and appliances, and houses that are too big for current occupants (as is the case with many elderly people experiencing fuel poverty) can all contribute to unaffordable fuel costs.

Fuel poverty can have serious negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of children, elderly people, and those with long-term illnesses. These vulnerable populations often spend more time at home and need to heat their homes throughout the day. Cold and damp houses lead to increased occurrences of respiratory and circulatory illness, including bronchitis, asthma, and strokes. Under-heated houses are also associated with increased severity of seasonal colds and flu and arthritic symptoms, and children living in these homes are twice as likely to have asthma, bronchitis, and to miss school because of illness.25 These conditions, paired with the reality that many poor families reduce food intake to pay for fuel, mean that infants in low- income households without access to fuel subsidies are more likely to be low weight and require emergency medical care.26

In 2014, residents statewide spent a total of $206 million more on energy costs than is considered affordable.27 At least 30,000 households living below the poverty level were Fuel Poor in 2014, paying between 30 percent and 56 percent of their income to cover energy costs,28 but only 6,628 households received essential state assistance for their energy bills.29 Energy Assistance funding levels for 2014 met just 8 percent of the need for households experiencing this affordability gap.30

 

FAMILY AND CHILD HOMELESSNESS IS A GROWING PROBLEM IN VERMONT

On January 27, 2015, a coalition of statewide groups counted 1,523 homeless Vermonters. Nearly one in five households counted included children.31 A one-night count in December 2014 showed that more than a quarter of those staying in state-funded shelters were children.32 More than half of those counted were families with children or unaccompanied youth.

Vermont has one of the highest rates of homelessness in New England, second only to Massachusetts. With over 23 people experiencing homelessness per 10,000 residents, Vermont’s rate of homelessness is 20 percent higher than the national average. Furthermore, although there was a 3.7 percent decrease in the number of people who experienced homelessness nationally from 2012 to 2013, Vermont saw a 25.34 percent increase in overall reported homelessness and a 48.52 percent increase in family homelessness.33

During the 2013-2014 school year, 1,145 homeless youth were enrolled in Vermont schools. While the majority of these students were “doubled up,” staying with friends and couch surfing, more than 1 in 7 was living in a shelter, campground, car, or was otherwise un-housed.34 The number of homeless students in the state is up 46 percent from 2010 after a peak of 1,202 students in 2012 following displacement due to Tropical Storm Irene. This general upward trend in the number of homeless youth reported for the past several years is particularly notable because declining enrollment statewide means that the portion of homeless students continues to rise.35

 

END NOTES

14. National Low Income Housing Coalition (2015), Out of Reach 2015: http://nlihc.org/oor
15. According to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – determined 2014 Fair Market Rent (FMR) rates, based on the 40th percentile of prices of unites rented across a region in the past15 months. http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/fmr.html
16. Mauricio K (2013), Mapping New England: Rent Cost Burden over 30 percent by county, in “Communities & Banking,” vol 24, no 1, winter 2013.  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
17. U.S. Census Bureau, 2009-2013 5-Year American Community Survey, Table B25070: Gross Rent as a Percentage of Household Income in the Past 12 Months, accessed via American FactfFinder.
18. Callis R and Kresin M. (2015), Residential Vacancies And Homeownership In The Fourth Quarter 2014, U.S. Department of Commerce, Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.
19. Bowen, Patrick M (2015), Vermont Statewide Housing Needs Assessment. Prepared for Vermont Department of Housing & Community Development by Bowen National Research, pg 73.
20. Bowen, Patrick M (2015), Vermont Statewide Housing Needs Assessment. Prepared for Vermont Department of Housing & Community Development by Bowen National Research, pg 74.
21. Teller-Elsberg, Sovacool, Smith, and Laine (2014), ENERGY COSTS AND BURDENS IN VERMONT: BURDENSOME FOR WHOM?, prepared by the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School for the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity, pg 5.
22. Fisher Sheehan Colton (2012), Home Energy Affordability Gap Ranking:  Dollar Gap per Household by State.
23. Teller-Elsberg, Sovacool, Smith, and Laine (2014), ENERGY COSTS AND BURDENS IN VERMONT: BURDENSOME FOR WHOM?, prepared by the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School for the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity, pg 4
24. Fisher, Sheehan& Colton (2015), The Home Energy Affordability Gap 2014 {2nd Series): Vermont, pg 1. available at http://www.homeenergyaffordabilitygap.com/03a_affordabilityData.html
25. MarmotReviewTeam(2011),  TheHealthImpactsof Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty.  Friends of the Earth.
26. Teller-Elsberg, Sovacool, Smith, and Laine (2014), ENERGY COSTS AND BURDENS IN VERMONT: BURDENSOME FOR WHOM?, prepared by the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School for the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity.
27. Fisher, Sheehan& Colton(2015), The Home Energy Affordability Gap 2014 {2nd Series): Vermont, pg 2. available at http://www.homeenergyaffordabilitygap.com/03a_affordabilityData.html
28) ibid.
29) Fisher, Sheehan& Colton(2015), The Home Energy Affordability Gap 2014 {2nd Series): Vermont, pg 1. available at http://www.homeenergyaffordabilitygap.com/03a_affordabilityData.html

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