[Excerpt from article by Esteban L Hernandez.]
NEW HAVEN — A recent report on the state of hunger in the city is providing the groundwork for how various local agencies and institutions can address food insecurity, which is disproportionally affecting minority residents.
“The State of Hunger in New Haven,” a report published jointly by the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement and the New Haven Food Policy Council outlines numerous food insecurity concerns for residents across the state’s second-largest city
At least 13 individuals from numerous local organizations and agencies worked together on the 8-page report. Collaborators included Connecticut Food Bank, Yale University, Southern Connecticut State University, DataHaven and CARE. The American Heart Association, the New Haven Board of Education, United Way of Greater New Haven and Food Rescue U.S. also assisted in creating the report.
Their first goal was unifying several data sets created by several surveys from the agencies related to food insecurity. Their results painted an disconcerting picture: Some 22 percent of the city’s residents are food insecure, which means they do not have enough food or money to purchase food.
Data collected from two surveys conducted in 2015 (DataHaven’s Wellbeing Survey and CARE’s New Haven Health Survey) showed food insecurity impacted 1 in 3 adults in the city’s lowest income neighborhoods. The surveys were one of several used to construct the report.
According to the report, Hispanic residents, “bear the greatest burden of food insecurity.”
These findings, based on the DataHaven’s and CARE’s surveys, showed food insecurity among Latino residents across New Haven was 34 percent. Residents in the six lowest-income neighborhoods had food insecurity rates of 50.1 percent.
“Rates of hunger are highest in neighborhoods with larger Latinx populations, like Fair Haven,” the report said (Latinx is a gender-neutral term for Latino).
CARE Director Alycia Santilli said community partners were aware of the impact food insecurity has on the community, but there wasn’t a comprehensive report, “that really told the story about New Haven.”
“When we did the food insecurity and access survey, we found that most people that are food insecure were not eating from 10 to 14 days per month, and some of them were up to two weeks,” Johannes said. “You’re looking at half the month they’re not eating or they’re minimizing meals so their kids can eat, or paying their electric (bill) rather than eating.”
Hunger’s impact on children
Data collected from a 2014 survey conducted on eighth-graders at 12 New Haven public schools found 1 in 4 children reported some kind of food insecurity.
More than 56 percent of New Haven children live in a household receiving SNAP benefits. These programs aren’t enough, at least according to data gathered by the agencies. The 2016 Food Insecurity and Access Survey [conducted by the City of New Haven and analyzed by DataHaven] reported, “food-insecure residents were more likely to report that SNAP benefits did not cover their needs.”
Johannes, who reports to Mayor Toni Harp, has started developing policy to address food insecurity. While she acknowledges this issue makes an impact on groups, including elderly and the “working poor,” she has taken an initiative to address childhood hunger first. Working with Alder Richard Furlow, D-27, who sits on the New Haven Food Policy Council, Johannes said she hopes to present ordinance proposals soon to help address the issue. The ordinances would likely set goals but not set lofty standards, like removing child hunger in the city altogether.
“This is something that we’re working on together,” she said. “I’m going to try and get it in December if possible.”