[Excerpt from feature article by Peggy McCarthy, C-HIT]

Beyond the gleaming office towers overlooking I-95 in Stamford and the pleasure boats that frequent the city’s marinas, thousands of city residents are struggling with hunger, a situation worsened by the pandemic.

Severe food needs in Stamford, which has the most COVID-19 cases in Connecticut, reflect the state and national food emergency wrought by record unemployment. Consistent with the national experience, Latino and black residents, who comprise about 40% of the city’s population, are disproportionately contracting COVID-19 and losing low-wage work. Latinos comprise 26% (33,000) of Stamford’s population, blacks 14% (17,000).

The Brookings Institution has reported that more than one in five households nationally were food insecure by the end of April. The Connecticut Food Bank, which services 270,000 people in its region, projects that the pandemic will result in as many as 187,000 additional state residents becoming food insecure.

A 2018 DataHaven survey titled the Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index found that food insecurity was experienced in Stamford by 17% of blacks, 13% of Latinos, and 9% of residents overall. The pandemic and resulting loss of jobs have heightened that food insecurity. Social services providers say the crisis illuminates ethnic and racial disparities in health and income that lead to food insecurity. 

Many immigrants are undocumented and can’t get unemployment compensation, said Catalina Horak, executive director of an immigrant program called Building One Community, which offers educational and social programs. She says immigrants have lost jobs in restaurants, hotels, construction, landscaping, and as housekeepers and nannies without “the luxury of working from home.”