This is the second in a series of stories about the work of United Way and its partners in the community being put together by volunteer Richard Gelfand as a public service for United Way. Rich is a veteran publicist and PR specialist who truly enjoys assisting people and businesses with their communication needs. We thank him for sharing his time and talent with us. The Seymour Oxford Food Bank is one of the agencies participating in the Valley Council’s Hunger Task Force.
People from all walks of life are thankful recipients of the generosity from local and regional food banks. Many times it is for those who you’d never even think needed assistance. When you think about a food bank and the people who go there, what is the picture in your head? Many people would mention the homeless, the addicted and the mentally ill, for starters. But would you think about someone at your church, a neighbor, someone who is employed and has a safe place to live? Maybe even one of your friends — even a family member? Food banks benefit many sectors of society when people are in dire need of assistance.
One of those food banks, the Seymour Oxford Food Bank (SOFB), is right here in the Naugatuck Valley.
FACT: 34% OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS SURVEYED HAVE HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN BUYING FOOD AND PAYING FOR MEDICINE OR MEDICAL CARE.
“I had to move out of my house. The bills were just too high for me to manage. My daughter passed away from cancer when she was just 19, and my wife has been very sick for years. Medical bills and prescriptions drained us; insurance alone was as high as $5000 a month. I am retired and I receive only $954 a month from Social Security and a very small amount of food stamps. I never thought I would be in a position like this.
“I live in Seymour in a senior housing complex that’s very nice. The Seymour Oxford Food Bank has been great to me ever since they were located in the church. The new location on Pine Street is great because I can shop for myself. They serve us coffee and occasionally throw a picnic. I write them a thank you note every single month. I even make them food sometimes out of the items I get from them.” — Anonymous, Seymour, 69
FACT: 49 MILLION PEOPLE FACE HUNGER EVERY DAY IN AMERICA, INCLUDING NEARLY 16 MILLION CHILDREN.
The Seymour Oxford Clergy Association established the Seymour Oxford Food Bank in 1979 to meet the growing request for food assistance within the church communities for members who fell below the poverty level. In 1981, SOFB was made available to all the residents of Seymour and Oxford and became a member of the Valley Food Bank Networks. It is governed by a board of directors and run by a lean staff of volunteers. SOFB is in the process of becoming an incorporated 501(c) non-profit organization. The food bank is designed to collect, store and distribute food to the residents of Seymour and Oxford that fall below the poverty level.
FACT: 42% OF RENTERS AND 30% OF HOMEOWNERS IN OXFORD ARE “HOUSING-BURDENED” — MEANING THEIR MONTHLY HOUSING COSTS ARE AT LEAST 30% OF THEIR INCOME.
Last December, SOFB moved to its new location at 20 Pine Street in Seymour. Volunteers work Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00am – 11:00am to prepare the shelves for clients, who shop on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am – noon.
“Clients can now self-shop and no longer just be given pre-pack bags of groceries, to help give them more dignity to provide for their families in tough times,” said Toni Cassidy, SOFB Director, who has been with the organization for 10 years. “We see lots of single moms and a wide variety of people, many who were recently laid off or overwhelmed with large medical bills. Many people who we can help don’t even know we are here. Summer is here and it’s the slowest donation time of the year. We can always use more volunteers to help collect food and stock our shelves.” The SOFB is also looking to implement an “Adopt-a-Shelf” program where sponsors would purchase specific items and stock their corresponding shelves.
“I first heard about the food bank 13 years ago through word of mouth, when they were still located at the church. I get only $40 a month in food stamps for my two kids and me. Toward the end of the month it gets hard to put food on the table. I am on disability and feel fortunate to qualify for Section 8 housing, where I live here in Seymour. Before that we had to live in a shelter in Derby. It was very difficult.
“I am so appreciative of the Seymour Oxford Food Bank. I even donated a shopping cart to them. They are very nice people and I am so grateful they are there. And we can shop for ourselves there, which makes a big difference. I feel more complete being able to choose what we need by myself. I can now afford to take my kids to McDonald’s, but only once a month. That’s our treat.” – Bob Connolly, Seymour, 55
FACT: LOCALLY, 1 IN 5 CHILDREN ARE AT RISK OF GOING HUNGRY.
The Connecticut Food Bank and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, released the 2015 Map the Meal Gap study, which offers a detailed look at the food budget required to meet the needs of families struggling with hunger here in Connecticut.
According to the study, 13.6%, or 488,350 of Connecticut’s residents, are “food insecure,” and it would take more than $253 million to meet the needs of Connecticut’s food insecure population, or $17.11 per week for each person. (Food insecure is defined as “lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.”)
The Seymour Oxford Food Bank is located at 20 Pine Street in Seymour. To volunteer or find out more about the Seymour Oxford Food Bank, call 203-888-7826