Thursday, June 17, 2010

Connecticut Food Bank, East Haven, CT

Our last trip in June 2010 was to the Connecticut Food Bank, the larger of 2 food banks serving the state.  The CT Food Bank serves a huge number of separate organizations (650).  The largest percentage is food pantries (41%), followed by residential programs (18%), programs for children (13%), soup kitchens (11%), and emergency shelters and adult day programs (9%).  CEO Nancy Carrington, who has been with the CT Food Bank for 26 years, graciously detailed how the food bank operates and gave us a tour of their spotless and orderly main facility. 

We were especially interested in some of the changes Nancy saw occurring:
  • The food bank is outgrowing its present space as the need for emergency food increases.
  • The proportion of food coming to the food bank from grocery stores or food manufacturers is decreasing because the food industry is becoming much better at minimizing waste and producing or ordering only what’s needed.  Thus, the proportion coming from the federal government commodities program is increasing.
  • The CT Food Bank is working to find new ways to get food to those who need it.  For example, they run a BackPack program to give kid-friendly nutritious food to 1200 food insecure kids when they leave school on Friday.  Packs include foods like Cheerios, milk, fruit, beans & franks, etc., all in shelf-stable single-serving packages that the kids can eat without adult assistance.
  • There is more of a push to include fresh produce among the foods supplied to client programs.  It’s very challenging to pick up donated fresh produce from the grocery stores or other sources and get it to the client programs undamaged and before it spoils.  Many programs don’t have refrigerator or freezer facilities, they may not have appropriate vehicles to transport fresh produce, and they may only be open once a week or even less frequently.
  • The need for emergency food is increasing in certain areas with few food pantries.  So the CT Food Bank has started mobile food pantries to supply primarily fresh foods.  They’re awaiting a new truck that they’ve purchased with federal stimulus money; this truck will be specially configured with doors on the sides to make it work well as a mobile pantry.
The next day, we volunteered at a mobile food pantry in Wauregan, CT.  It was held in the large parking lot of the Central Assembly of God church.  The truck arrived at 10:00.  We helped about 12 volunteers from the church and the community set up a long row of tables, repackage zucchini, broccoli, and apples into individual bags, and set all the food out for the pantry guests.  Other food available included vegetarian kabobs, carrots, potatoes, yogurt, fruit drink, and a large selection of breads.  Guests began arriving at 10:30.  After the volunteers had been instructed on how to serve the guests, the pantry opened at 11:00.  Each guest signed in and proceeded down the line as a volunteer offered them each item.  By 12:00 when the pantry closed, most of the food was gone.
This was the third time the pantry had been held at this location.  The first month about 35 families were served, the second month over 50, and this time 81 families went home with a much-needed supply of nutritious food.

1 comment:

  1. It was wonderful to meet you both and share my first mobile pantry experience with you two. Best of luck on your project and I look forward to reading about other states! -Carly Yearsley, CT Food Bank Programs Assistant