When you lose your job overnight, as thousands did in March and April of 2020, you focus on paying rent and making your car payment. Food becomes the most “flexible” part of your very tight budget.
But you still have to eat. And if you have children, the groceries that usually last a week may only last three days, because your kids are home all day, no longer receiving school meals. When the economy ground to a halt in 2020, food quickly became a problem.
During the month of April 2020, Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Helpline received 826 calls for food assistance in Fairfield County, compared to 160 calls in April 2019. Food pantries were overwhelmed by demand. Meanwhile, panicked shoppers emptied grocery store shelves. Donations to pantries from the grocery store industry were down 70%. It was the “perfect storm” of food insecurity.
Through our partners in the Stamford and Danbury Food Collaboratives, we heeded the cries for help and responded. United Way of Western Connecticut provided more than $45,000 in mini-grants to 18 food providers across our region so they could purchase more food.
“Thank you so much for this great news,” said one Stamford food agency. “This grant will go a long way in helping us procure additional groceries and continue to provide meals to those seniors under 60 who are disabled and don't qualify for federal funding for home delivered meals.”
Additionally, we expanded benefits and enrollment in our Healthy Savings program. More than 640 people became eligible to receive $20 of free, fresh produce and other grocery discounts each week through June 27, 2020.
Our Northern Fairfield County Day of Action pivoted to focus on food. We partnered with the Danbury Fair Mall to conduct a Drive-Through Food Drive, collecting more than 4,000 pounds of food and raising $2,400 to support Danbury Food Collaborative member panties.
Only United Way brings community partners together to take a multi-pronged approach when a crisis hits. Our connections with a broad spectrum of social service agencies and businesses enabled us to get food to people and pantries within days of the economic shutdown.
When you support United Way of Western Connecticut, you ensure that families will get nutritious food, quickly, even in the face of an unprecedented crisis.