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Feeding America Study Projects Food Insecurity Amid Pandemic Could Climb by 44% in Connecticut Food Bank Service Area

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will have a devastating impact on people facing hunger across the country and in Connecticut, according to a new study by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. This study is the first of its kind to explore how food insecurity rates at the local level may increase in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity analyzes food insecurity rates for the overall population and for children. The food insecurity rate in Connecticut Food Bank’s six-county could increase by 44%. Connecticut Food Bank serves Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London, and Windham counties, comprising 71% of the state’s population.

Pre-pandemic, 227,000 people, including 77,000 children, did not have adequate access to nutritious food to live a healthy life. The new study demonstrates that this number is likely to grow by nearly 122,000 people, including nearly 45,000 children. That means approximately 399,000 people (1 in 7 people) may experience food insecurity in 2020, including more than 122,000 children (1 in 4 children).

To address the increased need, Connecticut Food Bank has been purchasing food at rates far above any time in its nearly 40-year history. Previously, the vast majority of the food bank’s supply came from grocery industry donations. That source has declined by nearly 70% as consumer demand has cleared grocery store shelves. Connecticut Food Bank is purchasing food to fill the gap.

“Since mid-March, we have purchased nearly 3.5 million pounds of food,” said Connecticut Food Bank COO Daniel Gomez. “We are moving more food into our communities as soon as it becomes available. In May alone, we delivered more than 2.6 million pounds of food and logged more than 23,000 miles in deliveries, and we do not see any of that need diminishing.”

This new analysis was conducted by building upon the approach Feeding America used in two earlier briefs to predict changes to national food insecurity rates for the overall population and children in response to changes to poverty and unemployment. The annual projected unemployment rate (11.5%) is within close range of expert estimates when annualized, including those from a monthly Wall Street Journal survey of more than 60 economists as of May (11.6%), the Congressional Budget Office (11.4%), and Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research (10.3%), and represents an increase of 7.6 percentage points.

To account for local unemployment variation, this new analysis adjusts the projected national unemployment increase for likely job loss due to COVID-19 based on an analysis of projected changes in the unemployment rate by industry and occupation by Goldman Sachs Investment Research. The projected local unemployment change for Connecticut is an increase of 7%.

“By any measure, hunger in Connecticut is more severe than ever,” Mr. Gomez said. “The spike in numbers caused by the pandemic will be much slower to fall than it was to rise.”

Mr. Gomez said Connecticut Food Bank has seen requests for food double across its network of 500 partners and programs. “The loss of jobs and reduced wages will severely impact many Connecticut families for months and years to come,” he added.

The underlying analysis for the food insecurity projections was conducted by Dr. Craig Gundersen using the model developed for Map the Meal Gap, Feeding America’s annual study of local food insecurity and food cost in the United States.

Key findings for Connecticut Food Bank from this report regarding food insecurity include:

- Food insecurity in Connecticut Food Bank’s service area could increase by 44%, from 11% of the state’s population to 16% as a result of unemployment and economic dislocation due to the pandemic.

- Food insecurity among children in Connecticut Food Bank’s service area could increase by more than 58%, from 14% of children to 23%.

Connecticut Food Bank has seen increased need due to the pandemic across its six-county service area, which is home to 71% of the state’s population. Connecticut Food Bank began purchasing food to fill the gap from decreased food industry donations as consumer demand emptied grocery stores. Connecticut Food Bank has purchased more food in the past three months than it purchased over the last year and a half. The combination of increased need, rising food costs, and the effects of social distancing on warehouse and food distribution operations has increased costs for Connecticut Food Bank. The food bank seeks financial contributions and volunteers to support its work. For more information, visit www.ctfoodbank.org

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