WALLINGFORD — The Connecticut Food Bank recently celebrated a $25,000 donation spurred by the light-hearted squabble between HBO talk show host John Oliver and the city of Danbury.
According to Paul Shipman, spokesman for the Research Parkway-based Connecticut Food Bank, the donation from Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight,” is being processed and comes at a critical time due to the pandemic’s disruption of the food supply.
“We’re really excited about it,” Shipman said. “I mean, we’re just so grateful. It was such a strange circumstance and both parties really had fun with it I think.”
Oliver randomly selected Danbury as the butt of a joke during a segment on jury selection in Connecticut, calling it “the city that you should forget.”
Mayor Mark Boughton responded with a joke of his own, posting a video of himself saying the city was going to name a sewage plant after Oliver.
“We couldn’t let him trash our city that way without firing back, so we told him, ‘Sure, you know we’ll be happy to name our sewer plant after you because it’s full of crap, just like you are,’” Boughton said.
Oliver agreed to donate $55,000 to local charities if Danbury followed through. On Oct. 8, the Danbury City Council voted 18-1 in favor of renaming its sewer plant “The John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant.”
“When I talked to (Oliver), subsequent to the monologue after all of this, I said, ‘How come Danbury?’” Boughton said. “He said, ‘I just literally pulled it right off the map. There wasn’t really any reason, rationale for it.’”
The food bank was happy to be a beneficiary, Shipman said.
“Mayor Boughton was a great sport. It’s an unusual way to do community philanthropy, but we’re just grateful and it’s so wonderful to see such great things happening for so many organizations. We’re thrilled to be a part of that,” he said.
Financial donations are the “most important thing” that the Food Bank needs right now, Shipman said.
“The food supply has been so disrupted by the pandemic that overall food donations have dropped more than half over what they used to be for us and we have to fill that gap with purchased food,” Shipman said. “... That’s what’s happening with the donations like what’s coming from John Oliver.”
According to Boughton, another portion of Oliver’s donation is going to teachers for supplies through an organization called DonorsChoose.
“Basically teachers can go on there and say, ‘Hey, I need a new Smart Board,’ and that costs another $600 and people can donate toward that,” Boughton said. “He spent about $25,000 to $30,000 to that.”
Another $5,000 is going to the ALS Foundation in Connecticut in addition to the $25,000 food bank donation.