OPINION: Food drive recognizes reality of hunger

The fact that a significant number of people in Connecticut have to worry about having enough to eat can seem almost inconceivable. After all, the state ranks among the wealthiest, according to numerous sources. But food insecurity is real, with almost 140,000 people in New Haven County falling into that category, according to a 2020 Office of Legislative Research report.

The report studied the impact of the pandemic on food insecurity and found that about 16 percent of people in New Haven County were in need compared to about 12 percent in 2018, before COVID. That’s an increase of around 34,000 individuals with limited food resources in New Haven County. Within a couple of percentage points, similar increases were found throughout the state.  

According to feedingamerica.org, one in eight children in Connecticut face hunger.

Keeping that data in mind, a collaborative food drive involving nine local houses of worship is a timely and compassionate move. In addition, the Islamic Center of Wallingford is providing monetary support. 

R-J health equity reporter Cris Villalonga-Vivoni wrote about the “Unity in Faith” food drive, a collaboration among Wallingford faith communities. First Congregational Church members coordinated the effort. Collected goods will be donated to Master’s Manna food pantry. The organization serves Wallingford, Meriden, Durham, Middlefield, Cheshire, East Haven, North Haven, West Haven, Camden, North Branford and Northford. 

In an interview with Villalonga-Vivoni, Sue Heald, Master’s Manna food pantry manager, said “summer is typically a time of a low number of food drives and with kids going back to school, the demand goes up. It's coming at just the right time for us.” 

Inflation has food prices 11% higher than a year ago. Wallingford’s food insecurity rate, as Villalonga-Vivoni reported, is 10%, which equates to 4,400 people.

Heald said Master's Manna serves over 300 families weekly and she expects that figure to go up.

We’ve quoted a lot of numbers here, but it’s important to look past the statistics to real people with real needs. A neighbor, a kid at the bus stop, a person we walk by at the library or the park.

Organizers hope to expand and include more congregations. They spoke of the strength found in collaboration and the importance of “acts of service.” That’s a good message and a food drive is an excellent example of a way we all can participate.

The “Unity in Faith” project welcomes donations, no matter how small. Priority needs include: canned protein, peanut butter, jelly, breakfast cereals, pasta, canned soups and sauces. Fresh produce accepted but non-perishables preferred.

The food drive is scheduled for Sept. 17, 10 a.m. to noon. Donations can be dropped off at: First Congregational Church, Faith Bible Church, First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church, Most Holy Trinity Parish, St. John the Evangelist Episcopal, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Wallingford SDA Spanish Church and Zion Lutheran Church.

To find a food pantry near you go to ctfoodbank.org.


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