Connecticut Food Bank has extended a waiver of shared maintenance and delivery fees to its network of more than 300 member agencies through the end of this year. The waiver has been in place since March of 2020, the beginning of the surge in need caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Connecticut Food Bank member agencies distribute more than 90% of the food sourced by the Food Bank, said Connecticut Food Bank Chief Operating Officer Daniel Gomez. “Member agencies are the backbone of our network. This extended waiver recognizes their vital role in our partnership and helps them to stretch resources at a time of unprecedented demand for food.”
Mr. Gomez said Connecticut Food Bank was able to extend the waiver because of a grant received to support increased network strength. “Food sourced from Connecticut Food Bank is far below the cost of any similar product our member agencies could purchase, and these fees are only a fraction of what the Food Bank pays to source the food,” Mr. Gomez said. Shared maintenance fees range from 5 to 14 cents per pound, depending on the product category. The grant from Feeding America, the nation’s network of 200 regional food banks, helps to address those costs and allows agencies to devote more of their resources to providing food in the communities they serve.
In a message to the network, Mr. Gomez wrote, “We appreciate the work that agencies have done to remain open and to meet the growing need in our communities. Connecticut Food Bank has worked to continue sourcing and distributing food throughout the pandemic and remain committed to our mission. We continued to see the rise of food insecurity across our six-county network and we must all remain vigilant to end hunger.”
Agencies greeted the news with enthusiasm. “It helps offset our costs,” said Fay Williams of Walk of Faith Church in New Haven, which operates a food pantry. Receiving the news, Patricia Monahan of Community Kitchens of Northeastern Connecticut wrote, “Thank you for securing this grant and for all your efforts through Connecticut Food Bank to support our agencies.”
“It’s clear to us that member agencies are doing great work on the community level to combat food insecurity,” Mr. Gomez said. “We are grateful to them for staying strong and staying open.” Mr. Gomez noted that Connecticut Food Bank has been able to increase quantity and variety of food available to its network through diligent purchasing work that has been ongoing since early in the pandemic.
The pandemic created a surge in demand for food aid at the same time it disrupted the model of food donation. Connecticut Food Bank previously received two-thirds of its food through industry donations. That number plunged by 60% as consumers increased grocery shopping while staying home. Those donations have not rebounded, and the food bank is purchasing food to meet the demand. “Food Banks are not accustomed to purchasing food in these quantities, but it is the new normal and we are doing everything we can to keep food moving through our network. In fact, we have purchased more food in the last 4 months than in the last 6 years combined,” Mr. Gomez said. “The tremendous response of financial donors has made this new strategy possible and is providing food to the people who need it most.”
The need for food is still high as the pandemic continues to affect the economy and the job market. Many people are unemployed and struggling with rising debt. The suspension of federal relief programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and a moratorium on evictions creates more demands on families without means to pay for basic needs.
For more information about Connecticut Food Bank and how to help, visit www.ctfoodbank.org.