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Thanks For Banks: Food banks mark anniversaries

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

• Food Banks Celebrate Milestone Anniversaries

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This article first appeared as the cover story in the October edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication

By Bruce Deckert — Today Magazine Editor-in-Chief

HUNGER IS a continual human conundrum and a common human experience.

Surely, everyone on the planet knows and feels hunger on an ongoing basis — can we agree about the accuracy of this affirmation?

Whether or not complete agreement is possible, synonyms for the verb hunger illustrate what appears to be a universal association between hunger and humans: crave, desire, need, want, yearn for.

In terms of hunger as a noun, here is Merriam-Webster’s threefold definition:

• a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient

• an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food

• a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food •

This kind of hunger, it’s safe to say, is the reason food banks and food pantries exist.

Two food-support operations in the Farmington Valley are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year — the 60th for the Avon Food Pantry and the 40th for the Canton Food Bank.

Food banks and pantries that serve the other three Valley towns were likewise established decades ago. The Farmington Food Pantry dates back about 35 years, the Simsbury Food Pantry 40-plus years, and the Granby Food Bank 50-plus years.

If you’re keeping score at home, the math is straightforward: For more than two collective centuries — a combined 225-plus years — residents of the five Valley towns have systematically cared for their neighbors in this pragmatic and life-sustaining way.

September was Hunger Action Month. Feeding America launched this initiative in September 2008, and the conclusion of the 15th annual commemoration of this nationwide hunger-awareness campaign offers a fitting time to take stock of hunger issues here in the Valley.

The Farmington Valley is known for strong school systems, rural splendor and general affluence — yet some Valley residents quietly face food insecurity, living precariously paycheck to paycheck.

While the meaning of the term hunger is vital when it comes to understanding human history and behavior, food security and food insecurity are two more key terms with important definitions. In the social-service realm, food insecurity is defined as insufficient access to enough healthy food — conversely, food security is defined as stable access to healthy food.

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Karen Brand stock​s the shelves​ at the Canton Food Bank — the food bank is observing its 40th anniversary

Merriam-Webster’s definitions concur, while expanding the meaning to include an economic component:

food insecurity — being unable to consistently access or afford adequate food

food security — being able to consistently access or afford adequate food •

Feeding America is a national network of food banks, food pantries and meal programs. Statistics from the nonprofit’s website elucidate the scope of the food security challenge nationwide:

• 34 million people in America endure food insecurity — over 10% of the U.S. population of 331 million recorded by the 2020 census

• 9 million children in America experience food insecurity

• 49 million people turned to food programs in 2022

• 100% of U.S. counties have residents who suffer food insecurity

• Feeding America supports an average of over 40 million people annually •

Feeding America was originally established in 1979 as a national food-bank network called Second Harvest that later changed its name to America’s Second Harvest. In 2008, the organization rebranded as Feeding America.

Over 380,000 people in Connecticut struggle with hunger via food insecurity, representing 10.5% of the state’s population of 3.6 million. Feeding America features an annual Map the Meal Gap study that identifies hunger-related numbers in all 50 states by county. The five core Valley towns in Today Magazine’s coverage area — Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury — are in Hartford County, where 10.7% of the population faces food insecurity.

Meanwhile, the financial impact of COVID continues to be felt today. The onslaught of the pandemic in 2020, and the subsequent closure of numerous businesses, led to record layoffs and unemployment. As a result, more Valley families turned to social service agencies and food banks as an economic stopgap, and these food-support programs continue to fulfill an essential role.

Those struggling financially can also apply for SNAP benefits — the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once known as food stamps — through the Connecticut Department of Social Services.

For more than two collective centuries residents of the five Valley towns have systematically cared for their neighbors in this pragmatic and life-sustaining way

Here in the Constitution State, Connecticut Foodshare is a member of the Feeding America network. The nonprofit is connected to food-support programs across the state, providing sustenance for eligible residents.

In Valley towns, municipal social service departments accept applications and verify eligibility, typically based on standard barometers such as income and household size. Once registered and approved, residents are qualified to shop at no cost at the food bank or pantry in their respective town.

In every Valley town except Granby, food pantries and food banks are located in churches — for details, see the sidebar article with key nuts-and-bolts info. The Granby Food Bank is located in the Granby office of the Farmington Valley Visiting Nurse Association.

Based in Wallingford and founded in 1982, Connecticut Foodshare has satellite distribution centers in Bridgeport and Bloomfield, a next-door neighbor of Avon and Simsbury, and helps supply food banks and pantries statewide.

However, local social service officials indicate that the lion’s share of food at Farmington Valley food banks and pantries is donated by those right here in the Valley — area businesses, churches and other organizations, along with individuals and families who care about their neighbors in need.

​Fresh produce​ complements the nonperishable food at the Canton Food Bank

History tells us that some of the most well-known quotes about hunger were uttered in the first century by an unconventional Jewish rabbi.

Indeed, the biographers of Jesus of Nazareth note several references to hunger in the numerous comments that are attributed to this trailblazing teacher — here is one: “I was hungry and you gave me food.”

You may recall the context: When people help neighbors in need and those who seem to be least important, in a profound and puzzling and practical way they are also helping someone who, it’s safe to say, has claimed to be the most important person in human history — at least, so said this unconventional and trailblazing first-century human who claimed to be far more than a mere human being.

What is your take on this astounding quote attributed to Jesus of Nazareth? And what is your perspective on the value of food banks in the Valley and beyond? Further — what connection do you see in the answers to the previous two questions?

It appears there is more than an inkling that our responses to these queries — and our day-to-day decisions about caring for our neighbors — will have an extraordinary impact not only on our community today but also on our ultimate destiny. +

Today editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert is a multiple award-winning journalist — and he believes all people merit awards daily when they utilize their God-given storytelling gifts

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— Today Magazine’s previous coverage of Farmington Valley food banks

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