An abundance of healthy selections. Clearly marked nutrition labeling. The ability to pre-order. Fresh produce and meat. The 364,040 people in Connecticut who face hunger—one in every 10 residents—are increasingly likely to find these and other grocery store-like features at their local food pantries.
What do some of the wealthiest communities along Connecticut’s “Gold Coast” in Fairfield County have in common with the poorest towns in rural Windham County? Both counties include a growing number of families relying on federally funded free and reduced-price school meals to feed their children during tough economic times. Hunger among school-age children in Connecticut is on the rise and experts do not expect the trend to change soon given the state’s 9 percent unemployment rate and sluggish economy. “Children in Connecticut are hungry,” said Susan Maffe, president of the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut (SNACT) and director of Food Service for the Meriden public school system. “We know of children who come to school on Monday whose last meal was probably the lunch they ate at school on Friday.”
“Childhood hunger is impacting school districts across the board in urban, rural, even wealthy communities,” said Therese Dandeneau, an education consultant with the Connecticut Department of Education’s school nutrition programs.
Among the evidence of childhood hunger in Connecticut:
Thirty-four percent of all students in Connecticut’s public school districts were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch during the 2010-11 school year, up from 26.4 percent during the 2004-05 school year, according to Connecticut Department of Education statistics.