Hunger: A Continuing Problem

There is an ongoing hunger crisis in the United States and the food security net is more needed than ever.

The Connecticut Food Bank serves many working people who can't meet food expenses. Photo courtesy of Connecticut Food Bank

Food Insecurity

Hunger rates in Greater New Haven and across the country spiked after the Great Recession hit in 2008. While the rates have declined in recent years, food pantries and soup kitchens continue to see significant numbers of families and single adults in need.

The Numbers

  • More than one in eight American households experience food insecurity. More than one in six of the food insecure Americans are children.1
  • The food insecurity rate in New Haven County fell from 14.4% of the population in 2012 to 12.9% in 2015.2
  • 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 year.4
  • 44% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) recipients have at least one person in the family who is working.5
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 percent.6

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 the recovery (44 percent) 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 Whites.8

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 percent more likely to be in poor or fair health, 17 percent more likely to be hospitalized, and 60 percent 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 depression.9

Food security is also an issue for the elderly. A 2012 study by the City of New Haven Dept. of Elderly Services found that 41percent of low-income adults in New Haven say that it is hard to have enough money to eat in a healthy way; 65 percent 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 percent increase in the number of meals from the previous year.

Collaborative Solutions

The New Haven Food Policy Council supports cooperation among community groups and advocates for effective food policy. Its work helped allow low-income shoppers use food stamps at city farmer's markets. It recently released the New Haven Food Action Plan.

Schools and community organizations are working in partnership with End Hunger Connecticut to feed hungry kids through the Summer Meal Program, which provides hot meals in cafeterias when school is not in session.

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.

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

An international food program that has served billions of meals began with a small grant fom the Community Foundation. In 1981, The Community Foundation awarded $25,000 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, verDuin Palit collected surplus food from restaurants and companies for local soup kitchens. VerDuin Palit later 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. Children's Health Watch Policy Action Brief, May 2014

© The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
June 2017