FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – A growing number of people in Fairfield County don’t always know where their next meal is coming from, according to a new study done by the Fairfield County Community Foundation.
“Food is defiantly a basic but critical need,” said Nancy von Euler, program director at the Foundation.
It’s a hidden issue, she said, because Fairfield County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country, but it’s a growing concern because of the slow economy.
“Hunger is one of those things that everyone experiences from time to time. But food insecurity is when you’re having a continual problem meeting the needs,” von Euler said.
What the study found was that soup kitchens and food pantries in Fairfield County are experiencing increased demand for their services.
“They are really meant to meet short-term needs of food,” von Euler said. “And they’re really not equipped for the long-term and systemic needs.”
Much of the need is coming from a group of people that von Euler calls the "working poor." These people might have jobs, but the jobs don’t pay enough for much of anything after rent, she said. The number of people who lost their jobs since the economic recession began in 2008 increases these numbers, von Euler said.
Complicating matters is the high cost of living locally, she said. The national average cost for a meal is $2.50, but in Fairfield County the average meal is $3.17, the study reports, and the $3.17 is up from $2.95 in 2010. This means that the average cost of a meal is not only more expensive than the national average, but in Fairfield County it’s also increasing faster.
“We feel that some people are food insecure now are maybe food insecure for the first time in their lives, and may not be familiar with the resources that are out there to help them,” von Euler said. Many of them live in suburban areas where public transportation is unreliable, and having a car with a full gas tank is necessary to get to grocery stores or food pantries.
The study highlights ways that people who might be in these situations can help themselves, especially for families with children. One of the things the study focuses on is the number of children enrolled in the free breakfasts and free and reduced lunches at schools that might be available to them.
Among the statistics, the study talks about ways people can find help, either through the Foundation or by calling 211.
To read the complete study, click here.