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51,291 Turkeys Didn’t “Just Fall From The Sky”

51,291 Turkeys Didn’t “Just Fall From The Sky”

Source: Kevin Maloney, New Haven Independent

On average, more than 480,000 people in the state of Connecticut rely on food banks each year.

Despite our reputation as one of the richest states in the richest countries in the world, there are still pockets of poverty, and many families don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Jason Jakubowski, President and CEO of Connecticut Foodshare, joined “The Municipal Voice,” a co-production of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and WNHH FM, to discuss hunger in our state, its effects, and what his organization is doing about it. 

Families that struggle with hunger, or food insecurity can also be misrepresented, according to Jakubowski. He described “ALICE” families as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed households that earn above federal poverty, but not enough to make ends meet. For a family of four that limit is $90,000; upwards of 40 percent of households in Connecticut are below that threshold for their relative family size.

Jakubowski describedindividuals who were working decent jobs, but had the rug pulled out from under them when they lost a job, often through no fault of their own, as was the case throughout the early days of the pandemic. He found that 73 percent of those seeking assistance during those early drives had never used a food pantry before. Early estimates have pushed the number of individuals receiving assistance to 550,000, or 15 percent of Connecticut’s population.

Families are often forced to decide among bills covering rent/mortgage, heat, electricity, and even student loans. For many, the choice is to limit food.

“Medication is another major factor in there,” Jakubowski said, “People all of a sudden have to take a certain medication, and medication can be very expensive. What are you going to do? Are you not going to take the medication you need to stay alive?”

Now, two years into the pandemic, inflation has turned out to be a burden. Families are finding it harder to stretch that dollar to buy groceries forcing them to rely on food banks. But even for those food banks, that becomes more difficult. Jakubowski said, “In many situations we’re procuring food ourselves, and what we could buy for $100,000 isn’t going to get us as much as it would have a year ago.”

This of course drives the need for donations. While a majority of fundraising happens during the winter holiday season, he cautions that the summer months are some of the worst times for food insecurity as many children rely on public schools for up to three meals a day.

While Jakubowski stressed that he is not an expert on the subject, he said that studies show that learning is much harder when you are hungry, so these public school meals are a lifeline for many children.

You can donate those goods to your local food shelter, but if you feel better just donating money, give that to CT Foodshare.

The reasoning is that the food they receive is going to be distributed to local food banks anyway, but as a larger organization, they have greater buying power. For every dollar that is donated to CT Foodshare, they can buy two meals. (Learn more about the organization here.)

Fortunately, there is some good news: The people of Connecticut are very generous, Jakubowski said. “We were able to collect and distribute, 51,291 turkeys. I mean, those didn’t just fall out of the sky.”

To watch this episode of The Municipal Voice, click here.