Food Safety Nets Are Straining Under Economic Meltdown – Connecticut Consumer Advocate Protector Watchdog | Ct Consumer Complaints |Ct consumer Protec…May 18, 2020
By Peggy McCarthy
Melanie Stengel Photo.
Weeks into the pandemic, people wait
outside the 164 Wilson Food Pantry to receive food. The pantry is part
of the Wilson Memorial Church of God in Christ, Stamford.
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
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.”
According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, immigrants comprise 34% of
Stamford’s population of 129,775.
Melanie C Stengel Photo.
Lines for food were everywhere in Stamford last week. People lineup outside the New Covenant Cafe’s food distribution site.
Building One Community has transformed into a temporary emergency
agency with an onsite food pantry. It is also providing gift cards,
Horak said. She gets about 100 calls daily from immigrants who are
“very, very desperate,” she said.
Horak wondered if, after the pandemic, the Stamford community will
“flip the switch and pretend nothing happened.” She said, “It has become
more clear than ever that there are huge disparities in Stamford. Are
we going to address them by giving money and food to the most vulnerable
for a few months, or are we going to use this opportunity to understand
the underlying issues and address them?”
“I think that’s what will define us,” Horak…