For the last eight years, Connecticut has ranked last in the nation when it comes to number of schools offering breakfast to students. In the last national report in 2012, less than half of students who received free and reduced lunches in Connecticut ate breakfast at school. There’s a clear economic divide between the schools where breakfast is offered and where it isn’t. The state’s larger, lower-income cities generally offer it, and many of the smaller, wealthier communities do not. Here’s Craig LeMoult’s story about school breakfasts in Connecticut:
This interactive map by the Connecticut State Data Center illustrates the number of school breakfasts served in each school district, compared to the number of students receiving free or reduced-price school breakfast. Towns with more “free & reduced” kids and fewer breakfasts are red.
The report says most of the region’s food insecurity is still in the cities, but increasingly, families in suburban areas are having difficulty getting meals. Nancy von Euler of the Foundation says those families often don’t know about the resources available to them, like food banks and federal assistance. According to the report, 38% of Fairfield County families who are eligible to get federal food assistance don’t get the help. von Euler says part of the problem is that Fairfield County has among the highest costs of living in the country.
“So we have one of the highest food costs, per-meal cost of anywhere in the nation. Our housing costs are very high, our transportation costs are very high, our healthcare costs are very high,” says von Eueler. “And all of those things compound to put people at risk of not being able to have enough money to meet their food needs.”
The report says nearly 35,000 children in Fairfield County live in food insecure households, yet the state is last in the country for participation in the federal school breakfast program.
Recently a national anti-hunger advocacy group ranked Connecticut as the 6th best state for access to affordable and nutritious food—what’s also called community food security. But a study released Wednesday by UConn’s Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy shows that things are pretty tough in some areas.
You can hear Will Stone’s report on food insecurity here:
1 in 6 children in New London County is food insecure. That means they and their families don’t have reliable access to affordable food for a number of reasons—transportation, education, geography and income, all play a role.
It’s not all about economic disparity for this issue. The per capita income in the city of New London is $21,000, while neighboring Stonington is almost twice that. But the report shows Stonington still has a higher than average risk of food insecurity.
“Every town in the county has an at-risk population,” says Mary Gates, who’s been conducting focus groups on food insecurity for the New London Food Policy Council. “I want to make sure that people don’t look at Stonington or Mystic and say there can’t be hungry people there.”