Guest blog post by Gloria J. McAdam, President and CEO of Foodshare
Webster Bank is the kind of financial institution that people are looking for these days; one that puts its money where its heart is. This month’s efforts are just one example of their ongoing commitment to address hunger in our community. They also support Foodshare’s annual Walk Against Hunger, the Turkey and Thirty campaign, and several other major initiatives to help our efforts to end hunger. We’re thrilled that they are partners with us, because the problem is bigger and more challenging than most people realize, and it’s going to take the whole community working together to solve it.
Here’s a figure that will put it into perspective for you; one out of every five children in our community lives in a home where the family cannot be sure where the next meal is coming from. One out of every five. But of course it isn’t just children who suffer from hunger; it’s seniors living on a fixed income in a volatile economy; it’s middle-aged executives laid off and unable to find another job; it’s working people with jobs that don’t pay enough to cover all the basic necessities. You know these people. You meet them every day. Your children sit next to them in class. Altogether, more than 128,000 people in Hartford and Tolland counties suffer from hunger, living in every town, from every social and economic background.
Here’s another way to understand how big the problem is: last year, Foodshareworked with more than 300 food pantries, community kitchens, homeless shelters, and other agencies in our two counties, and we distributed enough food for 10 million meals. Yet we met only about one-third of the need. It’s clear to us that we’ll never be able to end hunger just by Foodshare distributing food—the gap between what is needed and what can be provided is just too big. We have to work on the other end of the problem. We have to help people get back on their feet so fewer people need food. If we can reduce the need and also increase the supply of food from all sources, we can bridge that gap and ensure that everyone has enough. And Foodshare has just launched a new ten-year plan to do just that.
We’re expanding pilot programs that have proven effective in building self-sufficiency, and we’re finding new sources of food, including smaller retail outlets and underused federal assistance programs. We know these programs work, and we know they can solve the problem if they are applied widely enough. But we also know that we cannot do this by ourselves. Hunger is too big and too complex a problem for any one organization to tackle. This job is going to require the whole community getting involved. That’s why we’re so happy to have Webster Bank this month. By reaching out to the community for help, they are taking that most crucial step toward solving hunger. And we hope that the bank’s customers and neighbors will carry their own support to the next level by volunteering with Foodshare or a food bank or pantry in their area. We’ve got dozens of ways that people can help, from delivering food to delivering speeches, helping people apply for federal food assistance benefits, sorting vegetables, or starting a Hunger Action Team in their town (we can show you how). There is no end to ways in which people can help. But there is an end to hunger, and we’ll reach that goal one day because people like Webster Bank and its customers cared enough to get involved.