Anxiety about where the next meal is coming from is rising in America, and in Connecticut. A disturbing report released this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that "food insecurity" — worry about running out of it — had dramatically increased nationwide, from 36 million people in 2007 to 48 million in 2008. It's the worst showing since the annual studies began in 1995.
The increasing numbers of people answering yes to survey questions such as whether household members had skipped meals because of lack of money are especially distressing because the survey was done before joblessness rose to its current national level of just above 10 percent.
The increase in Connecticut's food insecurity is one of the worst spikes upward of all states. About one of every nine residents here experienced food insecurity last year — a 2.8 percent increase since 2007.
A lack of food reflects the poor economy. But in this state, it also reflects the high cost of living. Food is one of the few places where families can cut back if they run short of cash. Nationwide, most of the families with children reporting food insecurity had at least one adult working full time.
Congress is due to reauthorize funding for child nutrition programs (such as school lunches for low-income kids) soon, and should do so at generous levels. But there is much the state can do, too, to get more federally subsidized food to poor children. A few dollars can go a long way.
Two examples: Last summer, the nonprofit group End Hunger Connecticut obtained a grant to let residents in Killingly, Thompson and Putnam know that low-income children could get federally subsidized lunches during the summer vacation months. That effort increased the number of kids showing up for meals from 572 a day to 995 — an astonishing success.
A one-year program to increase the number of eligible children getting free breakfasts in Bridgeport, Stratford and New Britain schools saw rates soar by 33 percent. In some schools, participation rose to nearly 90 percent. The trick? The brown-bag breakfasts were served in classrooms so kids could eat while teachers took attendance.
If you're among the more fortunate reading this, please consider giving a turkey and a 20 (dollar bill, that is) to Foodshare for Thanksgiving. They're taking donations at 450 Woodland Ave. in Bloomfield through Tuesday. Hours are 9 a.m.-2 p.m. today and Sunday, and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. Or you can find a convenient drop-off location at www.foodshare.org or at (860) 286-9999.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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