It used to be that donating food to feed the hungry was just that – feeding people who were literally starving in the streets. Today, it’s not just the homeless or destitute that are going without food, it’s working families who simply cannot make ends meet. They run out of food at the end of the month. Have fewer meals each day. And often go to bed hungry.
This is the new face of hunger. A growing problem that goes by the name of “food insecurity.” In 2013, it described 14.3 percent (17.5 million) of U.S. households. People whose income is just not enough to pay for housing, living expenses, medical bills and enough food. (2013, USDA.gov)
Fighting hunger at the local level
Food insecurity isn’t limited to poor, urban areas. It’s everywhere – including our own backyards. Even in a wealthy state like Connecticut, there are dozens of food pantries, community kitchens, and shelters that are distributing food to thousands of households year round. These programs are served by two food banks who are dedicated to collecting and distributing nutritious food to people in need.
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Foodshare: Tackling the problem from all sides
For more than 30 years, Foodshare has been the food bank for Hartford and Tolland counties in Connecticut. They reach out to the food industry for donations which Foodshare donates to nearly 300 food pantries and other local service agencies.
Despite supplying 12 million meals worth of food in 2013, Foodshare realized they only met one-third of the need. So they expanded their work to tackle the hunger issue from three key sides:
- Increase the amount of food donations from all sources
- Decrease the need for food assistance by helping people build their self-sufficiency
- Involve the entire community in their efforts
In these efforts, Foodshare has made impressive progress. Just a few of their accomplishments include:
- Developing 20 new partnerships with local grocery retailers
- Establishing Hunger Action Teams to provide19,000 Summer meals to low-income students,
- Starting the Bridges Out Poverty/Getting Ahead program to help families move up to middle class
- Rallying thousands of people in their annual Turkey and Thirty campaign which provides Thanksgiving meals to 20,000 households.
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Connecticut Food Bank: Delivering hope to the hungry
This food bank is the largest centralized source of donated, emergency food in Connecticut. With warehouses in East Haven, Fairfield and Waterbury, and affiliated distribution centers in New London and Stamford, Connecticut Food Bank serves nearly 700 soup kitchens, food pantries and child and adult day care programs in 6 counties.
A member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief charity network, Connecticut Food Bank has developed a number of innovative programs to solve the hunger problem in Connecticut:
- Kids' BackPack Program provides children with weekend access to healthy food that helps them learn and grow.
- Mobile Food Pantry helps address the transportation barriers that make it difficult for low-income people to access the adequate nutrition they need.
- Farm to Pantry Program accepts fresh produce donated from local growers and distributes the product to people in need. 35% of food distributed by the food bank is fresh from local grocery stores.
- GROW Up with Good Nutrition helps low-income families with young children gain access to healthy food and nutrition education.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. From events and promotions to food drives and fundraisers, Connecticut Food Bank shines a light on the issue of food insecurity throughout Connecticut and provides solutions to bring about the end of hunger.
help of volunteers. There are dozens of ways we can all give of our time, talent and resources to help fight hunger in Connecticut.
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From sorting, packing and distributing food to gardening and gleaning locally grown produce, there are many fun and meaningful opportunities for individual, group and corporate service within both organizations. To learn more, just visit the Foodshare and Connecticut Food Bank websites.
Donate to the Webster Food Drive
To do our part to fight hunger, a number of Webster banking centers are holding a food drive until December 5th. You can help by dropping off nonperishable food items at these participating locations.
How to help your community
Hunger and food insecurity are everywhere. So no matter where you live, there’s probably a food bank that needs your help. Just outside Connecticut you can connect with these community organizations to learn what they’re doing to feed those in need, and how you can volunteer.
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