Food Banks Starving, Need Greater Than Ever

The need is here and the need is real.

Food banks have been hit hard by the tough economy and what they are able to deliver is declining.

With a week to go for Thanksgiving, the Connecticut Food Bank is about 1,500 turkeys short of its goal for its annual food drive.

Executive Director Nancy Carrington said this year is worse than ever.

"This is the worst economic situation many of us have seen," she said.  "I think it's the worst I've seen in the 24 years since I've been with the food bank."

Carrington said it's a one-two punch. The demand for food assistance increased just as the supply of donated food began to decline.

"There's a good number of people who have lost their jobs," Carrington said. "I know of one woman who was working at a food pantry. She was diagnosed with cancer, had to go through treatment, didn't have benefits and ended up losing her drive. She's now going for help at that food pantry."

Last year, the Connecticut Food Bank handed out more than 25,000 turkeys and more than 500,000 pounds of "trimmings", feeding about 385,000 people.

This year, the food bank collected only about 13,000 turkeys, and Carrington says the demand has increased by 20 percent.

"That means an awful lot of people that might not be fed," she said.

"The old stereotype of who's needing help just isn't true," said Carrington. "This is increasingly people who have been working and have either lost their jobs or aren't earning enough to get by. It's changing the scene of who needs help."

Help is something Master's Manna in Wallingford has been getting more of, but it's still not enough.

Cheryl Avery is president of the organization. 

"Our donation levels are up," she said. "I think a lot of that has to do with our location. We're right on Route 5 right at a traffic light.  Whatever our needs are, I post it on our huge glass windows.  And people have been responding."

But more people have been asking, too.

"We try to give out a week's worth of food to families in need," she said. "Eight months ago we were able to do that. But because of the increased need, we're able to realistically give out two and a half days of food now."

It is only two and a half days because the number of families they serve three days a week is now up to nearly 100.

"A lot of the folks that we're seeing are the ones who used to be able to make it paycheck to paycheck and they just can't do it anymore," she said.

"Last month we served 374 families at least three times during the month, Avery said. "We're anticipating at least 300 families looking for a turkey." 

The number would be higher, but some families can't even afford more than a small microwave or a little stove.

"They can't cook a turkey, so their needs are different," Avery said. "But at the end of the day, they still all need to eat."

Contact Us