by Bernie Beaudreau
On May 1, I joined my colleagues from End Hunger Connecticut! and Foodshare for our third annual Hungry4Change Legislative
Day at the state capitol. This event is an opportunity for us to gather anti-hunger advocates and raise our voices together with members of the state legislature and with leadership from the administration.
We met with and heard from Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz and Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt, who both expressed support for our work and thanks to the advocates assembled.
They spoke to an energize audience that included representatives of Witnesses to Hunger, a group of community members in New Haven who have experienced hunger and who are fighting to end hunger in our state. Others present were members of the Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare networks, as well as supporters of our organizations.
The Capitol setting is one that inspires me to think about the high aspirations we set for our government and society. I believe it’s important that we focus on those aspirations and on making our national promises of liberty, equality, and justice a reality for everyone.
I’d like to share with you the remarks I made at Hungry4Change.
We are here today – where our laws are made to govern our state — because hunger is a matter of public policy, and nothing more. It is true that 40% of our state’s households do not have enough income to meet their basic needs throughout the year. This is a matter of economic opportunity and fairness, created by state and national public policy decisions.
In Connecticut, while we have seen the food insecurity rate trend downward in the last few years due to the economic recovery, we still have hunger rates that are much higher than they were 10 years ago because of the structural changes in the economy and labor market. The rising economic tide has left many boats sunk at the bottom. In 2007, Connecticut’s food insecurity rate was 8.8%. In 2017, our food insecurity rate was still elevated at 12.2%. We have many more food insecure people today than we did a decade ago. It is true that many thousands amongst us are working multiple jobs but still cannot afford to feed themselves or their families.
And, while I believe that the food assistance we provide through our food banks and network of over 1,000 food pantries is
enormously helpful to many thousands of our neighbors in need, our vast food assistance network cannot redirect the economic machine that is driving persistent poverty and hunger. That can only be done through restorative public policy – policy that reinstates America’s basic time-tested compact with its people: That if you work, you should be able to meet your needs. And if you are unable to work, we will provide a basic needs safety net to keep you from perishing.
We want to acknowledge that Connecticut’s public policy to end hunger has been helpful: The state budget has supported CT-NAP, the Connecticut Nutrition Assistance Program, which as part of the mix of federal and state food assistance to food banks, represents about 20% of the food we distribute.
But we need a deeper commitment from our state. How can you, our legislators, make a difference?
It is fitting on occasions such as this, that we pledge our allegiance: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of
America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. As we reflect on those sacred words, let us realize that:
So today, let us recommit to our pledge of allegiance — to work together, to be undivided, with liberty and justice for all, by doing all we can to end hunger in Connecticut.