It’s the holiday season, and during this time of year we are compelled to give to those less fortunate, especially those who are hungry and are in need of a meal. There are plenty of opportunities to participate in food drives and volunteer at soup kitchens. Donations can also be made to many organizations that provide these services to people in need. It is so wonderful to see how many people support their communities at this time of the year.
However, hunger doesn’t just happen around the holidays. One in ten families in Fairfield County struggles to put food on the table or doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. The national average cost of a meal was $2.52, where in Fairfield County; a meal cost $3.17 on average in 2011, forcing many households to budget more for food every month. Low income families are often faced with tough choices: do I pay my rent for the month to keep a roof over my head? Do I pay my utility bill to keep my house warm? Or do I pay for food? In order to make ends meet, many of these families, will often forego feeding their family a third meal for the day, and instead will get by on just two meals per day, often leading the family to face food insecurity.
The City of Danbury is at the highest risk for hunger and food insecurity. Food insecurity is the inability to pay for enough food or lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Due to the rising need for food in our community, a new group has formed to help residents in Danbury, the Danbury Food Collaborative (DFC). Spearheaded and led by United Way of Western Connecticut, the DFC consists of 16 non-profit agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens and agencies that deliver meals to the homebound. The DFC’s mission is to improve access to food, quality of food and sustainability of food for all members of our city and in less than a year of working together, we have taken some significant steps to doing just that.
The DFC has partnered with Community Plates, an organization that rescues fresh food from local grocery stores and restaurants and is now delivering the food to ten of Danbury’s soup kitchens, pantries and shelters. We also held our first community food drive, engaging 14 United Way corporate partners, taking in over 6,200 lbs. of food, which in turn, provided over 5,000 meals to those in need. The DFC has also released A Guide to Accessing Food in Danbury. This free guide lists locations of food pantries and congregate meal sites, as well as opportunities for home delivered meals, including days and times of operation and qualifications necessary to receive these services. The guide can be found online at http://bit.ly/IBkCKw in English and at http://bit.ly/1ktdiMY for a Spanish version. The DFC is issuing a survey this winter to find out how we may best serve our community going forward and plans another community food drive for February 2014.
How can you help? You can support the DFC by organizing a food drive or making a monetary donation. You can also volunteer your time at a food pantry or soup kitchen in your community.
Most importantly though, you can remember that hunger doesn’t just happen around the holidays, it happens all throughout the year.
To donate food or run a food drive for the DFC, please contact United Way of Western Connecticut at 203-792-5330. To make a monetary donation to the Danbury Food Collaborative, please make check payable to United Way of Western Connecticut, 85 West Street, Danbury, CT 06810, noting “Danbury Food Collaborative” in the memo section of your check.