COVID-19 Response Update
April 29, 2020
Connecticut continues to struggle with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Connecticut Food Bank is working to meet
increased need today while preparing for continued challenges in the weeks and months to come. The situation is changing rapidly, but our analysis forecasts that Connecticut Food Bank will need an additional $7.8 million over the next six months to provide food assistance to everyone facing hunger. This figure is based on projections that the pandemic could push as many as 187,000 additional Connecticut residents into food insecurity. And while the $2 trillion federal relief package will provide some support, those benefits will likely take six months to be fully realized.
These numbers are staggering, as are the stories of people now facing hunger. The effects of this pandemic will be felt for many months, if not years, for our most vulnerable neighbors. But, in the face of enormous challenges, we are responding with extraordinary efforts to try to make sure no one goes hungry during the pandemic. We can’t do it alone, and you can help.
Struggling Families are at High Risk
For the 270,000 of our neighbors in our service area already facing food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic means the very real danger of lost wages, more difficulty accessing enough food, and an increased reliance on food banks to fill their plates. School closures, job disruptions, lack of paid sick leave and the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on the elderly and low-income families are only a few aspects of this evolving crisis. Joining the ranks of Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents are those who have suddenly lost their jobs – and their financial stability.
Hunger Is Rising – Quickly
As we learned during the 2018-2019 government shutdown, many of our neighbors are only one missed paycheck away from falling into food insecurity. They are being forced to make impossible choices between buying food and paying for necessities like rent, heat, or medicine.
Unemployment numbers are shocking the nation. A record 402,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in Connecticut since mid-March. We have never seen anything like this, and economists predict the worst is not over yet.
We Face New Challenges
Social distancing upends our distribution model, and declining donations are leaving shelves bare.
We are distributing more food. We are taking exceptional measures to evolve operations rapidly – at increased cost – to safely distribute food. Connecticut Food Bank has seen a rise in food requests from agencies in communities where partners may not be able to meet the need due to school closures, social distancing measures, and a shortage of volunteers. We are working with our partners to adjust food distributions to comply with social distancing guidelines as they cope with increased visits to their sites. We are providing more food to agencies that have the capacity to remain open and continue serving the community. Connecticut Food Bank continues to make mobile food drops to Mobile Pantry partners who are now prepacking food kits and turning to drive-through or grab-and-go food distributions.
Food donations are drastically declining. Consumers are stocking up on food, which means shortages at retail stores. The result is a drastic decline in retail food donations to Connecticut Food Bank. Retail and food industry donations accounted for approximately 60 percent of the food distributed through Connecticut Food Bank. The drop in donations is a major disruption to our supply chain.
We are trying to fill the donation gaps by purchasing food. Buying food is putting substantial pressure on our finances. Since April 1, we have purchased more food than we did last year.
You Can Help
The crisis is evolving quickly, and there are many unknowns. But, one certainty is that we will be there for people in need, and you can help.
Over the next six months, we estimate we will need an additional $7.8 million to meet pandemic-related challenges to our communities.
Connecticut Food Bank is purchasing essential food, including fresh produce; shelf stable foods; canned and frozen protein; and dairy products to meet demand. We are purchasing more prepackaged foods, meal kits, and pantry items that have a longer shelf life and can be redistributed to clients with minimal contact. We are purchasing more gloves, bags, and boxes that agencies need to preassemble food kits for clients, and household products such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and other cleaning and personal care items that are often too expensive for people who are struggling with food insecurity.
We know that needs will continue to increase as the situation evolves. Thank you for helping struggling neighbors during this unprecedented time.
April 2 Update:
Connecticut Food Bank partner agencies are stepping forward to help an ever-increasing need created by the significant job losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures that are in place. Vertical Church in West Haven is a partner agency that provides food assistance in multiple formats, including a monthly Mobile Pantry that saw operational changes at its most recent distribution:
Vertical Church at 225 Meloy Road in West Haven is a Connecticut Food Bank partner agency operating a monthly Mobile Pantry site that typically serves 250 households. Their March 31 food distribution indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has created economic disruption and increased need.
Vertical Church has been following strict health and safety measures and are ensuring all their volunteers are trained and adhere to safety precautions for food distribution that have been shared by Connecticut Food Bank from sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Feeding America.
Vertical Church has suspended on-site services until further notice due to public health concerns, but the church is fully committed to outreach efforts impacting hundreds of lives in its community. Connecticut Food Bank continues to supply food resources to Vertical Church and the other partner agencies in the food bank’s six-county service area and is taking added precautions to protect the safety of volunteers, staff, and food recipients by adjusting its practices.
Mobile Pantry sites like the one at Vertical Church have begun operating as pre-packaged food pickups, rather than farmers market-style food shopping experiences. Vertical Church has mobilized its volunteer base to accept thousands of pounds of food that they pre-package and distribute in a “drive-thru” approach that adheres to current social distancing practices.
On March 31, Vertical Church received a drop of just over 6,000 pounds of food, including potatoes, dried beans, dried plums, applesauce, fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, cheese, and assorted nonperishables. The 6,000-pound food order was enough for the church’s typical turnout of 250 families. The church also packed 100 bags of groceries for delivery to at-risk homebound seniors in West Haven and New Haven.
While home deliveries to seniors were taking place, the Vertical Church parking area was soon crowded with people waiting for
the drive-thru distribution. It became clear that more people than usual were seeking food at the site. Some patrons parked on Meloy Road, creating traffic concerns, and began walking up to the church. Vertical Church Director of Facilities, Ron Sells, maintained control of the situation by temporarily halting distribution and assuring that all safety measures were met during the surge. Vertical Church volunteers cleared cars and brought out additional food from a storage area to meet the increased need. By the close of the distribution, “Senior Pastor Ken Vance with his entire Pastoral Staff served alongside their faithful volunteer team to distribute groceries to 500 families,” Church Elder Paul Bronson reported. Elder Bronson reports that, since March 17, the church has provided food assistance to more than 1,200 families.
More than 90 percent of Connecticut Food Bank partner agencies in our six-county service area have remained open to serve people in need and are seeing increased volume of new faces at each distribution. This may be the case for weeks to come. Connecticut Food Bank is grateful to partner with Vertical Church and its other partner agencies as we work together providing much-needed food to community members in challenging times.
March 30 Update:
Last week was unusual in Connecticut, and at Connecticut Food Bank. Not just for the dramatic growth in Coronavirus cases in
our state, but for the remarkable show of support from donors, volunteers, and from our partner agencies.
Connecticut began the week with increased social distancing practices, and many people were unsure what that would mean for them. There were unprecedented job losses, more school closings, and rising concern among those who already struggle with hunger about their ability to keep enough food in their homes to shelter in place.
Connecticut Food Bank leaned in to meet growing need because our donors stepped up, our volunteers and staff faithfully reported to work, and our partner agencies moved mountains to stay open to serve more people and to increase the amount of food they handle and distribute. In one week, we distributed 520,000 pounds of food, an increase of 120,000 pounds over our average weekly output.
The support of our donors will help to power the increased deliveries, food sourcing costs and warehouse operations that are required in this exceptional time. And our donors are coming through, at every level and from every community. We are grateful for their support.
Despite the challenges of operating in the current pandemic environment, we are on track to close March 2020 with a 100,000-pound increase over March of last year.
We don’t know what the weeks and months ahead will hold for our communities, but this week leaves us feeling surer about our ability to help neighbors in need. Keep up with us at www.ctfoodbank.org.
March 20 Update:
Across our service area, nearly 270,000 food-insecure individuals struggle with hunger. The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is putting further stress on their already stretched budgets. School closings mean that thousands of children from households with low income are at risk of missing two meals they would normally receive at school. Workers are furloughed, facing layoffs, or working reduced hours. More people will turn to our network of programs for food. It is more important than ever that all people continue to have access to nutritious food and the resources they need to stay safe, healthy, and secure during this difficult time.
Connecticut Food Bank is adapting our operations in response to evolving needs in our communities. We are using guidance from Feeding America and the CDC to ensure best practices in providing safe food supply. We are in regular communication with state government through an established emergency response framework. All Connecticut Food Bank staff and volunteers are taking extra precautions and adhering to stringent safe food handling protocols in accordance with current guidelines.
Response efforts to assist our emergency food network include the following:
Meeting Increased Need: Connecticut Food Bank is offering additional food deliveries to agencies and making mobile food drops in communities where partner programs may not be able to meet the need due to school closures, social distancing measures, and a shortage of volunteers.
Distributing Nonfood Resources: We are sourcing and providing our partner agencies with sanitation kits containing items such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and tissues. Connecticut Food Bank is offering cases of plastic bags to agencies so they can prepackage an assortment of food items for minimal contact distribution to clients.
Deliveries to our partner agencies have increased in both order size and frequency as we work together to keep their shelves stocked.
Volunteers continue working at our Wallingford warehouse where they are sorting and packing food. We use strict safe food handling practices that have been enhanced by the addition of increased personal space between volunteers and the addition of handwashing and hand sanitizing stations throughout our warehouse, as well as increased cleaning frequency.
You can help. Please donate now to help us keep food moving in these challenging times. We are making more deliveries working to source more food. We have increased costs for cleaning equipment and supplies. If you are well and able, we welcome volunteers at our Wallingford warehouse to sort and pack food. Learn more at www.ctfoodbank.org/volunteer.
We always work to maintain food safety and reduce spread of Coronavirus.
Connecticut Food Bank safe food handling practices that are always in place will help to protect against spread of illness.
Volunteers and staff are encouraged to focus on health first:
We are working to ensure households have access to food: