Hunger: A Continuing Problem

Hunger: A Continuing Problem

Photo courtesy of Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.

Food Insecurity

The Great Recession that began in 2008 caused increasing numbers of people to experience food insecurity, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as not having "enough food for an active, healthy life." While food insecurity rates have started to decline slightly, hunger remains a significant problem in Greater New Haven.  

The Numbers

  • More than one in eight American households experience food insecurity. More than one in six of the food insecure Americans are children1
  • The food insecurity rate in New Haven County fell from 14.4% of the population in 2012 to 12.9% in 20152.
  • The food insecurity rate in New Haven is 22%3
  • One in four Black residents and one in four Latino residents of Greater New Haven have experienced food insecurity in the past year4
  • 44% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) recipients have at least one person in the family who is working5.
Source: The Community Progress Report: Measuring the Wellbeing of Greater New Haven


The Underlying Economic Cause 

Food insecurity is a result of the declining wealth and income for low and middle-income families. Since 2000, wages have gone down for workers in the bottom 30 percent of the wage distribution and remained stagnant for workers in the middle.  Since 2001, the share of private-sector jobs in low-wage industries has increased by 20 percent in Connecticut, while the share of private-sector jobs in high-wage industries has decreased by 13 percent6.  

Following the 2008 recession, 22 percent of the jobs lost were low wage jobs while 37 percent were mid wage jobs, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project.  Yet most of the jobs that have come back during recovery (44%) offer low wages 7.  

Although unemployment has since recovered for college-educated and white workers, lower skilled workers and people of color face a different reality. Unemployment rates among Black and Latinos is triple that of Whites8.

Connecticut’s high cost of living forces people on low incomes to choose between buying food and paying for other basic needs such as heat, electricity, or rent. 

"We have not seen a decrease in the need for our services. If anything, we’ve seen an increase," says Steve Werlin, Executive Director of the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen in New Haven.

Impact on the Vulnerable

Young children who go hungry are at risk of potentially devastating consequences to their future potential. When compared with young children who live in food secure households, children under the age of four who were food insecure were 56% more likely to be in poor or fair health, 17%  more likely to be hospitalized, and 60% more likely to be at risk for developmental delays. And mothers who are food insecure are almost three times as likely as food-secure mothers to report having symptoms of depression9.  

Food security is also an issue for the elderly. A 2012 study by the City of New Haven Dept. of Elderly Services found that 41% of low-income adults in New Haven say that it is hard to have enough money to eat in a healthy way; 65% of those low-income seniors were not receiving food stamps.

In the Valley, TEAM Inc. served 58,000 meals to 367 homebound seniors in 2013, a 10% increase in the number of meals from the previous year.

Collaborative Solutions

The New Haven Food Policy Council advocates for access to healthy food and has successfully implemented the use of food stamps at the city farmer's markets. Comprised of agency leaders and residents, the council supports cooperation among community groups and advocates for effective food policy. It recently released the New Haven Food Action Plan.

To help address the problem of hungry kids in the summer when school is not in session, schools and community organizations are feeding low-income children through the Summer Meal Program, a state and federally funded program run in partnership with End Hunger Connecticut.

Local anti-hunger agencies are also coming together to try to strengthen the food system. In the Lower Naugatuck Valley, the Valley Council for Health and Human Services created the Food Security Task Force, which brings together area food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens to identify the community need, the capacity of the agencies, the problems with accessing food, and ultimately create a sustainable Valley Food Bank Network.

“Everyone coming together will make the system better,” said Valley United Way CEO & President Jack Walsh.

Budget Cuts Could Fray the Safety Net

The President's proposed FY 2018 budget calls for a 25 percent cut to Supplemental Nutritional Program (SNAP), the main government anti-hunger program commonly known as food stamps. If the cuts are passed, leaders of local food banks worry about Depression-era lines at food pantries.

"For more than three decades, our country has had in place a public-private partnership between government and community food banks to create a nutrition safety net," Connecticut Food Bank CEO Bernie Beaudreau and  Foodshare Interim CEO Jack Hackendorn  wrote in a recent editorial. "The president’s proposed cuts break that partnership, placing an untenable burden on food banks while depriving millions of hungry Americans with food for their basic needs."

What The Community Foundation is Doing

The Community Foundation has a longstanding investment in supporting the food safety net for Greater New Haven. Through unrestricted grantmaking and donor advised funds, The Community Foundation has granted more than $1 Million in the past five years to organizations including:

Seeding Innovation

In 1981, The Community Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant from the Caroline Silverthau Fund  to the New Haven Food Salvage Project, a small charity started by Helen verDuin Palit, then a young manager of Yale University’s Dwight Hall Soup Kitchen. Directing surplus food from restaurants and companies to soup kitchens, VerDuin Palit took her model to New York City and founded City Harvest. She went on to found America Harvest,  which now has 1,303 programs  around the world that have provided over 7 billion meals.


1. Feeding America. Map the Meal Gap 2017.

2. ibid

3. The Community Progress Report: Measuring the Wellbeing of Greater New Haven. The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and DataHaven. 2016. 5.

4. 2015 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey City of New Haven Crosstabs. DataHaven. 2015.22.

5.  Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2015 (Summary). United States Department of Agriculture. 

6. Noonan, Ray and Derek Thomas. The State of Working Connecticut. Connecticut Voices for Children. Sept. 2016.

7. Bernhardt, Annette and Evangelist, Mike.   An Unbalanced Recovery, The National Employment Law Project, Aug. 2014

8. Noonan and Thomas

9. Goldman, Nathan et. al. The Hunger Vital Sign: A New Standard of Care for Preventative Health. Chldren’s Health Watch Policy Action Brief, May 2014

© The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
June 2017



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New Haven, CT 06510



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