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

Connecticut Businesses Encourage Voluntary Community Service on Company Time

Nearly two-thirds of Connecticut companies surveyed by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association report that they pay their employees for one or two days of volunteerism, another 17 percent offer three or four paid days, and 10 percent offer five or more paid days for employees to engage in community service activities. That data was included in the newly released 2015 Connecticut Corporate Giving Survey.  The survey includes nearly 200 businesses and has a margin of error of plus or minus 7.2 report

Among survey respondents, 57 percent say they are more likely to hire candidates who are active in their communities, and one-third say customers do business with them based in part on their reputation for good corporate citizenship.  Just over half, 53 percent, say they encourage or allow employees to volunteer on company time.

Community volunteering is very important for employees who seek a higher purpose in life and look for meaning, says Khadija Al Arkoubi, an assistant professor of management at the University of New Haven: "Companies that allow it improve their employees' engagement and well-being," Arkoubi told Fast Company magazine. "They also develop their soft skills including their leadership capabilities."

The Society for Human Resource Management surveys employers about the benefits they offer. In 2013, about 20 percent said they give their workers a bank of paid time off specifically for volunteering, up from 15 percent in time

A UnitedHealth Group study in 2013 found that 87 percent of people who volunteered in the previous year said that volunteering had developed teamwork and people skills, and 81 percent agreed that volunteering together strengthens relationships among colleagues, Fast Company reported. In addition, four out of five employed people who volunteered in the past year said that they “feel better about their employer” because of the employer’s involvement in volunteer activities, according to the publication.

“It is encouraging to see that not only do many businesses provide incentives for employees to volunteer for area charities, but many voluntarily pay them for their efforts,” said Brian J. Flaherty, Senior Vice President of CBIA.  In the CBIA survey, nearly one-third of businesses (31%) said they recognize or reward employees for volunteer service.

CBIA is Connecticut’s leading business organization, with public policy staff working with state government to help shape specific laws and regulations to support job creation and make Connecticut’s business climate competitive.

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Leadership Greater Hartford Connects More Than 400 Volunteers with Nonprofit Board Service

In just over six years, more than 400 people in the Greater Hartford area have joined the board of directors of local nonprofit organizations, through an innovative matching program run by Leadership Greater Hartford.  The program has proven both popular and successful, and is seen as a win-win for the nonprofit organization in need of expertise and individuals looking for ways to contribute to the well-being of the community. The Leaders on Board program has matched 404 individuals – from young professionals to retirees - with more than 100 nonprofit organizations since January 2009.  The program attracts individuals with an interest in serving on a board, and looking to develop their leadership skills and serve the community.  Potential board members receive training in nonprofit organizational structure and management, are introduced to the role and responsibilities of board members and are encouraged to explore their own individual skills. The training session provides the foundation for effective board service. LOB no Express Logo 34

Leaders on Board, unique in Connecticut and perhaps the largest initiative of its kind in the region, provides a critical connection for nonprofit organizations who are looking for board members that have been trained in the basics of board membership and have expressed an interest in serving on a nonprofit board.  In some cases, individuals’ employers encourage such community activism, in others, the person is seeking to give back to the community or broader their involvement in issues that are of particular interest.  Corporations and businesses participate in the Leaders on Board program by offering board governance training to encourage their employees who are interested in serving the community.

The program works in a round-robin matching session, where representatives of nonprofit organizations conduct brief one-on-one interviews.  At the end of the session, both the individual and the organizations indicate where they think there might be a match.  If there’s agreement, there are further follow-up conversations to determine if selection to a specific board should go forward.  Often, the answer is yes.

“I decided to participate in leaders on Board because I was looking for a way to become a board member on a local, small to medium-sized nonprofit organization," explained Bill Valentine, Donor Relations Manager, United Way of Central and Northeastern CT. "Leaders on Board is the ideal way to learn the basic information about the responsibilities of being a board member and to learn about the organizations that are looking for new board members.”

At times, prospective board members learn of nonprofit organizations they had not been aware of or knew little about.  For people new to the region, and even those who have spent a career in Greater Hartford, the variety of nonprofit organizations, and they work they pursue with various populations, can be eye-opening.  The list of organizations that have placed members on boards through the Express Match process is quite impressive – a who’s who of community organizations.logo_block

In 2013, the Association of Leadership Programs, a national organization with affiliates across the country, presented Leadership Greater Hartford with its first “Excellence in Innovation” award for the implementation and success of the Leaders on Board program.  Recent years have also seen greater diversity among prospective board members, and interest by nonprofit organizations in having boards that more closely reflect the diversity of the community they serve.

"I had been considering pursuing board membership for a few years when The Junior League of Hartford offered its members a chance to participate in Leaders on Board," recalled Patricia Sasser, Dean of Students at Loomis Chaffee.  "The Leaders on Board orientation provided great information on what a prospective board member needs to know about board service; it definitely set me up for success.  I felt prepared and excited when I attend my first Leaders on Board Express Match. Having a chance to speak with different organizations about their mission and purpose opened my eyes to all the different types of organizations I could support. I found several that really spoke to my heart and was excited when I was matched with an organization I admired."

Among those who have recently accepted board of directors positions, following the most recent Leaders on Board session:

  • Ann Means - Hartford Preservation Alliance
  • Chris Whelan - First Choice Health Centers
  • Sue Murphy & George Montowski - Hebrew Health Care
  • Nancy Frede - Hartford Knights Youth Foundation
  • Jessica Dansereau & Veda White - Lupus Foundation of America - CT Chapter
  • Veda White - Trinity Academy
  • Michael Fournier, Richard Moriarty and Patrick Garrity - Kinsella Arts, Inc.
  • Chris Thomas - Mental Health Association of CT
  • Jim Barrett - St. Philip House
  • Bernard Jenkins, Meri Horowitz and Gary Brochu - Coram Deo Recovery, Inc.
  • Richard Moriarty and Patrick Garrity - Kinsella Arts, Inc.
  • Karen Adamson, Maia Brooks, and Anthony Viggiano - Project Genesis
  • Aaron Clay and Jasmine Baten - West Hartford YMCA

Leaders on Board operates with support from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.  For more information, contact Mae Ryan Maloney at 860.951.6161 x1900 or email The mission of Leadership Greater Hartford is to develop, connect and inspire diverse leaders to build strong and vibrant communities.

Need a Job? Study Says Volunteering First Can Help

If you are unemployed, it pays to volunteer.  That is the finding of a new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, tracking individuals out of work who chose to volunteer, and the impact it had on their search for employment.

The report, “Does It Pay to Volunteer: The Relationship Between Volunteer Work and Paid Work,”  estimates non-working individuals’ probability of being employed a year later if they volunteered during the 12-month period. Pooling three years of data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) Volunteer Supplement covering the period ending in September of 2011, the analysis found a positive volunteer effect on the probability of employment for persons who were not employed and volunteered for more than 20 hours per year.

For example, the employment rate for non-working persons who volunteered between 20 and 49 hours per year was 57 percent higher than the rate of non-voluntewhere people volunteerers. And controlling for personal characteristics such as age, gender and ethnicity, there was a substantial increase (6.8 percentage points) in the probability of employment for persons who volunteered between 20 and 99 hours per year.

In Connecticut, among the many ways to volunteer - most with local community-based organizations - the United Way has developed a web site, , to match interested individuals with volunteer opportunities.  The Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, at, also has a website devoted to volunteering.

The latest statewide data for Connecticut, complied by the Corporation for National & Community Service using 2011 data, indicates that volunteerism is considerable across the state:

  • 28.5% of residents volunteer, ranking them 22nd among the 50 states & Washington, DC.
  • 29.3 volunteer hours per resident.
  • 72.8% do favors for their neighbors.
  • 793,710 volunteers.
  • 81.7 million hours of service.
  • $1.8 billion of service contributed.

In the survey, many volunteers did not volunteer in the professional field in which they were seeking employment. This suggests that even without accumulating the relevant human capital for the fields in which they were seeking employment, volunteering may have signaled to prospective employers that the applicant possessed desirable qualities such as motivation, creativity and reliability.

Thus, volunteering could be particularly useful for job applicants with little prior experience such as recent college graduates or persons attempting to re-enter the labor market after a period of joblessness. The data did not indicate that volunteering has a significant impact on wage growth of the typicheaderal person.

For purposes of the survey, a volunteer was defined as person who performed unpaid volunteer activities over the previous 12 months through or for an association, society or group of people who share a common interest.  Volunteering in an informal manner, such as helping an elderly neighbor is not included in the survey. Unpaid work, including internships for for-profit employers, is also not considered volunteer work, while some other types of unpaid internships may be included, if the person considered it volunteering rather than work.

Hartford Is Top-50 City for Volunteers, Survey Finds

A survey of the level of volunteering in 75 American cities  places Hartford in the top 50, finishing in a tie for 47th, with 26 percent of adults having participated in volunteer work, volunteering programs or volunteering organizations in the past 12 months.  That’s just slightly below the national average of 27 percent.  Hartford, which tied with Albany, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Greensboro and Sacramento, was the only Connecticut city on the list, developed by Scarborough Research. The top local markets were Salt Lake City, UT (42%); Minneapolis, MN (34%); Des Moines, IA (volunteers34%); Portland, OR (34%) and Grand Rapids, MI (33%).

The generational breakdown of volunteers, according to the survey: Millennials (20% of adults participated in volunteer work in the past 12 months), Generation X (27%), Baby Boomers (34%) and the Silent Generation (18%).

The survey also revealed additional demographic information about volunteers. Adults who are self-employed or small business owners are 12 percent more likely than all U.S. adults to be volunteers. While 43 percent of volunteers are employed full-time, they are 16 percent more likely to hold white collar employment and 34 percent more likely to have a college degree or higher.

Volunteers are not only generous with their time; they are financially charitable as well. They are:

  • 84 percent more likely than all U.S. adults to have contributed to an arts/cultural organization in the past 12 months,
  • 61 percent more likely to donate to an environmental organization and
  • 60 percent more likely to contribute to a political or social care/welfare organization in the same time period.

Fifty-seven percent of volunteers contributed to a religious organization in the past year.

For nonprofit organizations seeking to communicate with and reach out to potential volunteers, the survey suggests where and how to do so.  The survey reported that 56 percent of volunteers read the local news section of their newspaper and 38 percent read the international/national sections.

Regarding television and radio habits, the survey found that volunteers are 17 percent more likely than all U.S. adults to tune in to HGTV, 16 percent more likely to watch PBS and 13 percent more likely to watch TLC. The top radio formats for volunteers are Adult Contemporary (26% of volunteers listen), Pop Contemporary (26%) and Country (25%).

The survey was conducted in November 2012, covering the previous 12 months.  Scarborough Research, based in New York City, is a joint venture between Arbitron Inc. and The Nielsen Company.

Volunteering in Connecticut Above Average, But Declining

The percentage of Connecticut residents who volunteer has dropped slightly, but the state remains above the national average, ranking 22nd among the states.  The data, compiled by The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is the most comprehensive annual collection of information on volunteering and civic life in America, reflecting nation’s civic health. The National Conference on Citizenship is a partner on the project. The 2012 Volunteering and Civic Life in America report and website provide information allowing civic leaders, nonprofit organizations,and interested individuals to retrieve a wide range of information regardingdemographic trends and rankings for volunteering and civic engagement activities intheir regions, states, and metro areas.  The 2012 report is based upon data collected in 2011.  Overall, in Connecticut:

  • 28.5% of residents volunteer, ranking the state 22nd among the 50 states and Washington, DC.  That’s a drop from 31.1% and a #15 ranking the previous year
  • 793,710 volunteers.
  • 81.7 million hours of service.
  • $1.8 billion of service contributed.
  • 29.3 volunteer hours per resident.

The report also noted that 72.8% of Connecticut residents do favors for their neighbors, 88.8% eat dinner with their family a few times a week or more, and 53.3% discuss politics a few times a month or more.  In a generational breakdown,

  • Young adult volunteer rate ranked #16 (26.3%)
  • College age ranked #24 (27.8%) state_CT_129___2011
  • Older adults ranked #14 (29%)
  • Gen X ranked #23 (32%)

Among major cities, Hartford ranked #27 (just behind Boston at #26) in 2011, down from #15 in 2010.  (From 29.8% to 26.9%.)  The top three cities were Minneapolis-St.Paul, Rochester (NY), and Seattle.  The national volunteer rate was 26.8 percent.  Top states were Utah (40.9%), Idaho (38.8%) and Iowa (38.4%)  At the bottom were New York (20.7% ) and Louisiana (19.4%).

Nationwide, the number of volunteers reached its highest level in five years, as 64.3 million Americans  state_CT_113___2011 volunteered through an organization, an increase of 1.5 million from 2010.  Americans volunteered a total of almost 8 billion hours, an estimated economic value of roughly $171 billion.  A majority of Americans assisted their neighbors in some way and more than a third actively participated in a civic, religious, or school group.

The report also found that parents of school-aged children contributed more than 2.5 billion hours of their time to volunteer efforts nationwide in 2011, most of it to school-based projects, underscoring the pivotal role that schools play as hubs for local volunteer efforts.