In 1974, community churches and synagogues pooled their resources to address the needs of hungry neighbors throughout Chittenden County. The result: The Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Initially, the Food Shelf was housed in one small room staffed by one person assisted by volunteers, who distributed a three-day supply of groceries to families once a month as a Grocery Distribution Program.
In 1978, the Food Shelf became a program of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO), whose mission is “the elimination of poverty in the midst of plenty.” Later, in 1982, the Food Shelf also became a member agency of the United Way. In response to the greater demand for hunger relief services, CEFS moved to a bigger location that had access to a kitchen and began serving a hot breakfast every weekday.
CEFS relocated twice to larger sites, including its 1994 move into its current location. This new facility was built through the RELIEF Capital Campaign, which raised money to build or renovate three buildings for use by five social services agencies in Burlington. To further meet the growing demand for hunger relief services, the Food Shelf implemented the Homebound Delivery Program in January 1998 as an alternative food resource for low-income homebound seniors and disabled adults.
Today, in addition to direct hunger relief services, the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf also houses a comprehensive culinary job training program called Community Kitchen, to provide a long-term solution to the cycle of hunger and poverty.