BLOOMFIELD, CT – While most of the state is shut down, volunteers at places like FoodShare and those providing childcare for healthcare workers and first responders are still working hard to make sure people are able to make it through.
Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of FoodShare, said it’s a complicated time, but they are doing the best that they can with an “ever-evolving situation.”
Typically, FoodShare which distributes nonperishable food to more than 300 pantries and mobile food trucks, sources 75% of its inventory from grocery stores. Due to the panic-buying that everyone has been doing, Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association that represents grocers, said they simply don’t have the inventory to donate.
“They’re trying to stock their own shelves,” Jakubowski said. “But we’re seeing an increased demand as people are out of jobs.”
He said there’s an increase in demand on food pantries and mobile food trucks and he expects it to continue for months as the number of unemployment claims climbs.
“Despite what some people think, we’re not going to flip the switch and things are magically going to go back to normal,” Jakubowski said.
He said FoodShare doesn’t know when their next delivery of emergency food from the federal government is going to come or how much is going to be on it.
Paul Shipman, director of government relations for the Connecticut Food Bank, which operates in the southern part of the state said they are also seeing an increased demand from food pantries they service.
The Connecticut Department of Social Services has applied for five waivers from the federal government to make it easier for Connecticut residents to get access to food through programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday that he spoke with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue who did not make any promise about approving the waivers, but acknowledged the urgency of the situation.
“He seemed sympathetic that more people should be on the SNAP program,” Blumenthal said.
Jakubowski said they have enough food to last them another week and a half and they have purchased several trailers of food that haven’t arrived yet.
Blumenthal suggested that anyone who wants to help during this COVID-19 outbreak should donate to FoodShare or the Connecticut Food Bank.
“We’re so thankful the community is so generous,” Jakubowski said.
Some large donors already have stepped up.
Barbara and Ray Dalio and Dalio Philanthropies announced a $500,000 donation each for FoodShare and the Connecticut Food Bank.
“We have been told that these organizations expect an increase of at least 20% in terms of the number of people who will need help obtaining food for their families,” Barbara Dalio said. “These are terrific organizations that have spent years helping families by providing them with nutritional meals. We are grateful to have the opportunity to help them since they provide so much help to others.”
The Dalios also directed $3 million toward childcare services at 26 centers across the state for hospital workers. The funds will pay for childcare for eight weeks for approximately 1,066 children whose parents or guardians work in the healthcare field.
Gov. Ned Lamont thanked Dalio Philanthropies for their donation Friday, but didn’t mention them by name at his briefing.