Phil Fiermonte , outreach coordinator to Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaks to residents of Bennington on Wednesday afternoon during a visit to Meals on Wheels.
Phil Fiermonte , outreach coordinator to Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaks to residents of Bennington on Wednesday afternoon during a visit to Meals on Wheels. Jane Plunkett and Donald Lusis listen as Fiermonte speaks. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.bennningtonbanner.com )

BENNINGTON -- Social Security, Comcast bills, and other issues were raised with representatives from Sen. Bernie Sanders' office when they visited Bennington County Wednesday.

One of their stops was the Bennington Café, which is part of Meals on Wheels of Bennington County on Pleasant Street, where they chatted with seniors about concerns they had and let them know what the senator has been working on while in Washington, D.C.

Much of what Jeffrey Munger, transportation policy adviser, and Philip Fiermonte, outreach coordinator, heard about was the Meals on Wheels program itself.

"A lot of people are served by these programs, and they are very important to a lot of people," said Jim Milton, of Manchester, who was having lunch at the café. "I think we all understand what Bernie is about. He's trustworthy and does as much as he can in this atmosphere."

Meals on Wheels Executive Director Susan Fox said there has been a 25 percent increase in the number of meals served since last year -- about 10,000 more -- and the number of people being served has doubled. She said much of the increase may be because the program's reputation has grown by word of mouth. Meals are made daily from scratch with an eye toward daily nutrition needs.

Fox told Fiermonte and Munger that many do not connect proper nutrition with long-term health, and they should, as people who do not eat well suffer more chronic health problems.

She said the program has a $140,000 budget.


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Last year it received $80,000 in food from the Vermont Food Bank as well as local farmers.

"The food is very good, and it's very reasonably priced," said May Burns, of Bennington, who eats at the cafe every so often. She said she comes not only for the food, but the company. Everyone who eats there is friendly.

Fox said many people who use the program live alone.

"When you get old, you don't like to cook," said Peggy Jones, of Shaftsbury, who was at the café Wednesday.

Other folks at the café raised issues they have with Comcast. "Every month I get a bill and they go up by one or two pennies," said Marion Cutler. "It's ridiculous."

Sanders has spoken out against Comcast in the past, specifically against a proposed merger between it and Time-Warner Cable.

"They listened to us, and I know Bernie is in a fight with Comcast anyway," said Cutler.

Fiermonte said prior to Meals on Wheels he and Munger were in Arlington visiting the Battenkill Valley Health Center, a federally qualified health center formed last year from the practice of Dr. Michael Welther. The health center was created to address the need for basic primary, dental, and mental health care in the Arlington area. Sanders was involved in securing funding for it.

Munger said he tries to come to Bennington County every so often and report what he hears back to Sanders.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or on Twitter @kwhitcombjr