Jan 2, 2014
06:53 AM
Connecticut Today

Connecticut Food Bank Anticipates Worsening Food Insecurity in State

Connecticut Food Bank Anticipates Worsening Food Insecurity in State

Connecticut consistently has the highest per capita income in the country, yet 420,000 residents, or 12 percent of Connecticut’s population, are poor enough to be on food stamps. Altogether, 520,000 people are considered “food insecure.”

Those figures come from Feeding America, a nation-wide non-profit network of food banks, and from Connecticut Food Bank, whose Director of Communications Mary Ingarra said that both those who are on food stamps and those who are “food insecure” supplement their meals with items from food pantries—food pantries that Connecticut Food Bank helps stock.

Of those who are “food insecure” in Connecticut, a term the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses to define those without adequate access to enough food for a healthy, active life, 157,550 children.

Benefits for food stamps decreased on Nov. 1. Those benefits, now called SNAP, for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will probably decrease even further when Congress gets around to passing a farm bill, which could happen as soon as the Senate and House reconvene in January. If that happens, food pantries will see even more people at their doors, said Ingarra.

As it is, SNAP benefits for a family of four were cut by $36 a month at the beginning of November, and the average SNAP benefit dropped to less than $1.40 per person per meal, according to Feeding America.

SNAP had received additional funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act when the stimulus program first took effect four years ago. Congress figured that since more people were out of jobs, more would be hungry, and the money spent on food would go right back into the economy. However, the additional benefits passed then, have run out.

Today, 46 percent of the people Connecticut Food Bank serves do not qualify for SNAP at all, said Ingarra, adding that, “A family of four with an income over $23,000 doesn’t qualify.”

For families smaller than four persons, qualifying income is even less.

“The $36 drop in benefits doesn’t sound like a lot to you and me, but it’s a lot to her,” said Ingarra of a woman whom she was careful not to identify, but one whom she said had lost her job when a dry cleaners closed five years ago. Because of high blood pressure, the woman is finding it hard to get work. Her family of four includes two teenagers, a boy and a girl, and she is trying to feed them all on $632 per month.

To alleviate the effects of hunger on young children, Connecticut Food Bank sponsors the Kids’ Back Pack Program. On Fridays, 2,600 children (identified by principals) in over 100 schools, receive kid-friendly food, such as beef stew, chicken with rice, cereal, shelf-stable milk and juice. It can hold them over through the weekend.

Of the threat to food stamps, Ingarra said, “They should be strengthened, not cut, because it’s a nutrition safety net.”

With the Nov. 1 cut, 17 million meals per year are missing nationally, said Ingarra, adding, “We’re at 15 million meals per year now in Connecticut, so if those are missing, how are we supposed to keep up?”

See the full story at Minuteman News Center online.

 

Connecticut Food Bank Anticipates Worsening Food Insecurity in State

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