February 3, 2016
Reporter: Kathleen Schassler
Source: The Middletown Press
The stories, faces and voices of the Witnesses to Hunger Connecticut exhibit in Hartford relays the difficulties of children, adults and families that go hungry in Middlesex County.
Witnesses to Hunger CT, a photo-voice exhibit “showcasing first-hand accounts of hunger” in the state, opened Monday in the lower level concourse of the Legislative Office Building.
The exhibit features 15 individual “witnesses” from the cities, suburbs and rural communities in the state. Their photos tell stories about everyday choices people are forced to make in order to survive. Through one photo, a woman named Kimberly introduces her teenage son. While he’s grateful to eat, he still wishes there was meat on the plate, according to End Hunger CT!
The nonprofit is dedicated to ending hunger in the state by promoting access to good nutrition through federal nutrition assistance programs, according to the website,endhungerct.org.
Randy from Westport had a good job until he was diagnosed with cancer and now relies on meals from the soup kitchen and pantry. In his photo, Randy holds a grocery bag in his hands and says while he is grateful for the safety net, he wishes there were more fresh foods available, a press release said.
“You can’t overestimate how freeing it is to know where your next meal is coming from,” said Izzi Greenberg, executive director of the Middlesex Coalition for Children. “The toll it takes on a person’s mental health is very oppressive. It’s a big deal in so many ways.”
The project is a collaboration of Connecticut nonprofit organizations, anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates, and state agencies inspired by Witnesses to Hunger, a project of the Center for Hunger Free Communities at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health.
“We know the situation now compared to 10 years ago” said Greenberg. “It’s such an ongoing problem, especially during summer because schools usually supplement nutritional needs of children.”
The challenges of hunger go far beyond just nutritional issues, she explained.
One in three children in Middletown is experiencing hunger or food insecurity, and one in two parents experience it too, Greenberg said.
One woman told her that she and her husband take turns eating dinner every night. This particular family has two parents working full time in order to earn about $40,000 a year.
In Middlesex County, a family of two adults and two children needs about $53,000 to meet basic needs, according to research about financial hardship and residents who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed, as defined by the United Way ALICE Project.
“That stress impacts a family at every level,” said Greenberg.
Hunger in Connecticut is a pervasive problem: one in seven Connecticut residents struggle with hunger; 14.3 percent of families in the state do not have adequate resources to purchase enough food; and 68 percent of Connecticut food pantry and soup kitchen clients at one point had to choose between food and medical care, according to statistics compiled by the United Way of Middlesex County.
“Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the nation but there are many who struggle every day to put food on the table,” said Lucy Nolan, End Hunger Connecticut! executive director, in a press release. “The ‘Witnesses’ recruited to participate in this project have been faced with choices that are hard to fathom — whether to eat low-cost foods that could be harmful to their medical conditions or not eat at all, whether to pay for prescriptions or put food on the table, and whether to feed themselves or give extra food to their children. As we move into our legislative session, we hope this exhibit can serve as a reminder that many among us, often hidden, need the state’s support.”
Witnesses to Hunger CT is the second exhibit of its kind in the state. The first took place in New Haven in 2014 and was championed by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3.
The exhibit is on view in the lower concourse of the Legislative Office Building through Feb. 11. A booklet can be found at endhungerct.org.
“For single adults, especially those with mobility, transportation or mental health issues, hunger is really dramatic all the time,” said Greenberg. “It’s a constant in people’s lives.”