Donor Briefing Recap: Affording Basic Needs During COVID-19 and Beyond

"When people don’t have the necessities of life, poverty becomes quicksand." Broke In America, by Joanne Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox.

The number of working people who did not earn enough to pay for their basic daily needs was already a crisis before COVID-19, which made the problem visible like never before.

On March 26, the root causes of poverty and the work being done to aid and help transform the lives of families in Greater New Haven was explored in depth by a panel moderated by author and National Diaper Bank Network CEO Joanne Goldblum, with panelists Myra Smith, Neighborhood Advocate for Christian Community Action, and Jill Meyerhoff, Executive Director, FISH of Greater New Haven.

Left to right: Joanne Goldblum, Jill Meyerhoff and Myra Smith

What We Heard:

  • Life has always been a pandemic for people who can't afford to feed their families.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how many people lack financial resilience.
  • Overall need is not expected to go down in the near future without fundamental changes to incomes and levels of income support.
  • The National Diaper Bank Network has seen as high as a 700 percent increase in families asking for help.
  • Giving has been essential to allowing basic needs organizations to respond.
  • The Pantry to Pantry program, launched in 2020 after a mandated quarantine and now run by FISH, is delivering 1000 bags of groceries a week.
  • Most family homeless shelters do not accept men. Christian Community Action runs one of the rare shelters in the region that keep family units together.

What We Can Do:

Resources For You:

About the Panelists

Joanne Goldblum serves as chief executive officer of National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) and co-author of Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending Us Poverty (Feb. 2021, Benbella Books).

Joanne is also the founder of The Diaper Bank of Connecticut, formerly the New Haven Diaper Bank, and she serves on the board of directors of FitHaven and Let There Be Light International. Her work has been recognized by NPR, The Nation, Good Morning America, The Huffington Post, Time, People, and ABC World News Tonight, among others.

Jill Meyerhoff is the Executive Director of FISH of Greater New Haven and has helped the local community with food security and wellness since 2012. During her time at the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, Jill created mobile pantries, food drives, and dietary programs for diabetic and food insecure individuals and families.

Jill’s arrival to FISH of Greater New Haven was instrumental towards the organization’s success during the pandemic. Under her leadership, FISH moved its operations to a larger warehouse to increase the pantry’s impact and opened a new program called Pantry to Pantry that has helped feed over 2,600 additional homebound individuals in the Greater New Haven community.

Myra Smith is a lifelong resident of New Haven. Currently a Neighborhood Services Advocate for Christian Community Action where she runs the food pantry, diaper bank and utility assistance programs. She was Vice President and President of Mother's for Justice for many years. Myra remains an active member of the expanding grassroots advocacy group newly named Mother's and Others for Justice.

Myra went into the foster care system at 13 until the age of 23. From that time until she was 30 she was very unstable and ended up homeless numerous times. The past 10 years have been more stable and she now has a wealth of knowledge and understanding because of her life experiences.

She has dedicated her life to fighting for equality and better living for everyone, with her voice and heart: “This is the time you will either NEED or LEAD and I'm choosing to LEAD.”

Donor Briefing Series
The Community Foundation's ongoing Donor Briefing series invites guest experts to discuss urgent issues affecting us locally and nationally and to inform us about what can be done. Contact us to learn more.