Firsthand Accounts of Effects of Hunger in Connecticut On Display at State Capitol

Hunger in Connecticut is described as a pervasive problem: one in seven Connecticut residents struggle with hunger; 14.3 percent of Connecticut families do not have adequate resources to purchase enough food; 68 percent of Connecticut food pantry and soup kitchen clients at one point had to choose between food and medical care. Those stark statistics come alive through the firsthand accounts of individuals in Witnesses to Hunger CT, a photovoice exhibit showcasing firsthand accounts of hunger in Connecticut, which has opened in the lower level concourse of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford and will run through Thursday, February 11.stats

“Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the nation but there are many who struggle every day to put food on the table,” Lucy Nolan, Executive Director, End Hunger Connecticut!, said. “The Witnesses recruited to participate in this project have been faced with choices that are hard to fathom – whether to eat low cost foods that could be harmful to their medical conditions or not eat at all, whether to pay for prescriptions or put food on the table, and whether to feed themselves or give extra food to their children. We hope this exhibit can serve as a reminder that many among us, often hidden, need the state’s support.”

The 15 Witnesses to Hunger CT come from Connecticut’s cities, suburbs and rural communities. Kimberly’s picture told the story of her teenage son who while grateful to have something to eat wished there was meat on the plate. Randy from Westport had a good job until struck by cancer and now gets many meals from the soup kitchen and pantry. In his photo he holds a grocery bag in his hands and says while he is grateful for that safety net he wishes there were more fresh foods available. The photos tell a story of everyday choices that must be made to survive.

The project is a collaboration of Connecticut nonprofit organizations, anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates, and state agencies inspired by Witnesses to Hunger, a project of the Center for Hunger Free Communities at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health.  Advocates point out that limited access to food leads to poor health outcomes, including stress, obesity, and inability to succeed in work or school.hunger map

“There are four main themes that emerged from this project and tell me a compelling story,” said State Senator Marilyn Moore, Bridgeport. “The Witnesses to Hunger CT show everyday struggles with health and wellness, food and nutrition, transportation and adequate shelter. If we want people to succeed we need to make sure we support them. I appreciate their bravery in shining a light on these themes.”

Connecticut is the last in the nation for the number of schools with a school breakfast program, according to End Hunger Connecticut! officials. They point out that 64.6 percent of schools participate, and 45 percent students participate in free and reduced price breakfast for every 100 in lunch.  Connecticut would receive an additional $9.6 million federal dollars if the participation rate of school breakfast reached 70 percent.

Connecticut’s SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) participation rate is 72 percent and 53 percent of the eligible working poor participate in the SNAP program. Many go to food pantries instead for food, organization officials said. They indicated that for every $1 spent on WIC funding, Connecticut saves $1.77-$3.13 on future medical costs.

“The members of Witnesses to Hunger are the real experts on hunger and poverty,” said Dr. Mariana Chilton, an associate professor at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health and founder of Witnesses to Hunger. “Too many decisions today are made without consulting with the people that are affected most by policies made in Washington. We are thrilled to have families from Connecticut join in the national movement of families speaking from first hand experiences to inform policy makers and the public about the true realities of America’s struggles and how to solve them.”

They noted that 11.9 percent of Connecticut residents are food insecure and 4.7 percent are very food insecure — a slight increase from 2008.

“Data shows the food insecurity rate among those living with a severe mental illness is 475 percent higher than those who are not battling mental illness,” said Billy Bromhunger exhibitage, MSW, Director of Community Organizing, Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health. “We know that good nutrition plays a key role in mental health and that’s why the mental health community is here today to support the Witnesses.”

Witnesses to Hunger CT is the second exhibit of its kind in the state. The first took place in New Haven in 2014 and was championed by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.  Witnesses to Hunger CT is a collaboration of:  Advocacy Unlimited, Connecticut Association for Basic Human Needs (CABHN), Center for Hunger Free Communities at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), Connecticut Food Bank, End Hunger Connecticut!, Foodshare, Immanuel Congregational Church/UCC, Hispanic Health Council, New Haven Food Policy Council, and the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

The exhibit will be in the lower concourse of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) through February 11th. A booklet prepared for the exhibit can be found at The LOB is located at 300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford and is open weekdays 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Free parking is available (first come first served) at the LOB Garage, which is located directly behind the LOB.


Community Plates Rescues Food to Help Hungry; Norwalk-Based Nonprofit Has Appetite for Growth

Hunger in the United States makes no sense. That, in a nutshell, is what drives Norwalk-based nonprofit organization Community Plates. Now in six regions of the country (including it’s home county) and seeking to take root elsewhere, Community Plates is committed to ending American food insecurity by directly transferring fresh, usable food that would have otherwise been thrown away from restaurants, markets and other food industry sources to food-insecure families throughout the U.S.cp

Community Plates is up and running in Fairfield and New Haven in Connecticut as well as in Columbus, OH, Albuquerque, New Mexico and New Orleans, Louisiana. As the company website explains, “Food insecurity is a real problem in parts of the U.S. Many families don't have a good idea where their next meal is coming from. Some people go to work every day and by the time they pay for the roof over their head, their heat and electricity, there isn't always enough money left for food that week. So we definitely have people in need of that resource.”

Jeff Schacher founded the company in 2011, and it has delivered 4.5 million meals to people in need in Fairfield County alone.  Yet, as the organization’s website points out, one “would never imagine that in one of the wealthiest counties in America, there are over 100,000 people (38,000 children) that are classified as food insecure.”rescue

The process is dependent upon volunteers, at each step:

  1. Surplus fresh food is donated by restaurants and markets.
  2. Local volunteers donate their time, vehicles, and fuel to rescue the fresh food.
  3. Receiving agencies deliver rescued food to food-insecure people in their area.

peppersThe organization is driven by volunteers – food donors, food runners and partner agencies.  One such agency in Connecticut is the Manchester Area Conference of Churches, which indicates there are 8,000 food-insecure people in the greater Manchester area.

Community Plates New Haven is working to provide meals to the 123,000 food insecure residents of New Haven County - a stunning 14.4 percent of the county’s population. The organization’s website notes that “Sadly, over 19.2% of New Haven County’s children fall within the guidelines of being food insecure, and the number continues to increase.”

Community Plates began in Fairfield County, and over 80 percent of the 1.5 million pounds of food rescued since the organization’s inception has been “rescued right here,” the website explains.runner

Community Plates is “built on a foundation of social entrepreneurship, and we so strongly believe in the power of community, we built it right into our name,” officials point out.  The organization highlights six Connecticut farms and farmers for their support of the effort in the Nutmeg State:

  • Ambler Farm
  • City Center Danbury Farmers’ Market
  • Feeny Farms
  • Millstone Farmest 2010
  • Rowayton Farmers’ Market
  • Sport Hill Farm

Efforts to End Hunger Among Seniors, Children in CT

AARP Connecticut is teaming up with End Hunger Connecticut and Foodshare, a  nonprofit serving Hartford and Tolland counties, to enroll more qualified state residents in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. AARP reports that in Connecticut  more than 386,000 residents receive help paying for groceries each month under the program, but that only 34% of adults age 60-plus who are eligible for SNAP have enrolled - many because they didn't know they were eligible. State residents 60-plus may qualify if their monthly income is less than $1,680 for an individual or $2,268 for a couple.

Foodshare recently announced that in 2011, 3,685 Foodshare volunteers contributed over 38,000 hours to advance their local efforts to support people in need of food.

And last week, End Hunger Connecticut launched the state's participation in No Kid Hungry, a national initiative to end huger among children by 2015.  It has been estimated that there are 127,000 children in Connecticut who are going hungry.  The organization will be sponsoring the state's first School Breakfast Summit on May 4 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.