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
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.
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."
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:
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.
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