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CT Food Bank Faces Multiple Hunger Challenges

Food banks face an added challenge after this week's expiration of unemployment benefits that had been increased because of COVID-19. (eldarnurkovic/Adobe Stock)
Food banks face an added challenge after this week's expiration of unemployment benefits that had been increased because of COVID-19. (eldarnurkovic/Adobe Stock)
August 6, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Connecticut Food Bank is dealing with a series of challenges causing spikes in hunger across the state.

Paul Shipman, senior director of marketing, communication and government relations for the Food Bank, said partnering agencies and pantries saw a 40% jump in visits when the COVID-19 outbreak hit, as people lost their jobs.

He said the pandemic also upended how the Connecticut Food Bank receives food. Before, about two-thirds was donated by the food industry, but that plummeted as food ran low at grocery stores.

"We had to change our model from receiving donated food to buying food," Shipman said. "That has been a huge challenge for us. It is a costly process."

This week, Tropical Storm Isaias has presented an additional challenge. After the storm swept through on Tuesday, more than 700,000 people were without power.

He said agencies able to open up are doing so, and some mobile pantries are going into communities to serve people.

Shipman said even before the pandemic, Food Bank partners were serving more than 140,000 people per month. He noted Connecticut is a high-cost state.

The higher unemployment benefits from Congress ended this month, creating another challenge for struggling families. And a wave of evictions could be around the corner. Shipman said the Food Bank helps folks stretch their limited resources.

"To prevent some of those tragedies of loss of housing or forgoing health care or forgoing utility payments, but we know that it won't be enough to keep up," Shipman said.

Shipman hopes Congress will support food banks and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, in its next coronavirus relief bill.

Despite the challenges, Shipman said more than 98% of their partner organizations are open. He commended the volunteers running the agencies, many of whom are older and at higher risk from COVID-19.

"They have been real heroes in this whole process, keeping the doors open and helping people to get the food they need," he added.

Shipman said people can help out by volunteering at their local agencies or donating.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - CT