Funds will support efforts to encourage healthy food choices and will connect families to community resources
A recent study of food pantry clients in Hartford found that 65 percent had a household member with high blood pressure and 26 percent had a household member with diabetes. Feeding America estimates that one in nine people – 118,000 people in Hartford and Tolland counties is food insecure, including more than 33,000 children. Food insecurity and health challenges are intricately linked. However, only one-third of Greater Hartford food pantries offer wrap-around health and human services that address these challenges.
As a result, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has awarded a three-year, $250,000 grant to Foodshare to build the capacity of food pantries to fill the gap and offer "one-stop shopping" for food and other resources to promote health and financial wellbeing.
“We are so thankful for both the support and confidence of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving,” said Jason Jakubowski, Foodshare’s President and CEO. “The Foundation have been a key partner of Foodshare for many years – and this new multi-year commitment will go a long way toward expanding our outreach efforts to provide more than just food.”
Foodshare’s “Supporting Wellness at Pantries” (SWAP) program is a "stoplight” nutrition ranking system designed to help promote healthy food choices at food banks and food pantries. SWAP categorizes food pantry offerings, helps patrons make healthy choices, and influence the types of food donated to the pantry. Foods are ranked in three categories: “Green” foods are low in saturated fat, sodium and sugar and support health; “Yellow” foods contain medium levels of fat, sodium and sugar; can contribute to good health; and “Red” foods contain high levels of fat, sodium or sugar with limited health benefits.
Foodshare staff will provide technical assistance to food pantries to implement the SWAP system or convert to a “choice” model where clients can select their own food. This will involve time to train pantry staff and volunteers on how to rank foods with SWAP and to promote healthy foods using posters and shelf tags. Foodshare will also provide technical assistance and equipment grants for pantries to reconfigure layouts to shift to a client choice model and to provide healthy food.
The “More Than Food” initiative develops the capacity of food pantries to connect individuals to community programs and services above and beyond food assistance. Foodshare staff will train pantry staff and volunteers to connect clients to community resources and services. In addition, Foodshare will provide supplies for 10 Resource Centers: portable tables, tablecloths and printed materials for community resources. Foodshare will also partner with human service organizations and health care providers to conduct outreach at five mobile sites to enroll families in services and programs that build financial stability and food security and promote health. In order to reach more working families, Foodshare is piloting Saturday Mobile Foodshare sites - a pantry-on-wheels. Based on the pilot’s success, additional sites will be added in 2020.
“Research shows that food pantries need to progress beyond food distribution and examine the social and health determinants of the people they serve,” said Hartford Foundation Community Investments Officer Dawn Grant. “The Hartford Foundation knows that in order to make significant progress in addressing hunger, we must take a holistic and collaborative approach that offers more choice, additional connections to community services, and the creation of a culture that empowers people to set and reach goals. This grant supports the Foundation’s basic human needs focus and is based on years of learning and gathering feedback from food pantry staff and participants about what works best.”
Foodshare is leading an informed, coordinated response to hunger in our community. Foodshare is the Feeding America food bank serving Connecticut’s Hartford and Tolland counties, where 118,000 people struggle with hunger. In partnership with the food industry, donors, community leaders and volunteers, Foodshare works to maximize access to nutritious food and other resources that support food security. Last year, Foodshare distributed more than 11 million meals worth of food to a network of nearly 300 local food pantries, meal programs, and Mobile Foodshare sites. And, because hunger is more than food, Foodshare collaborates with anti-hunger organizations, policy makers, and the broader community to build effective solutions to end hunger. Foodshare is changing what it means to be a food bank. For more information, visit www.foodshare.org.
About the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $758 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.