A partnership of key local organizations and partners convened at the West Haven Veterans Museum and Learning Center for a meeting to learn about their respective efforts surrounding food insecurity and how to better coordinate and ensure city residents are aware and receive available resources. Headed up by Rep. Dorinda Borer (D-115), the group will seek strategies to help those in need.
West Haven ranks in the top 10 listing of communities with high food insecurity at 11.6%, according to Connecticut FoodShare and ranks fourth of 169 cities and towns in its ability to address food insecurity.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for West Haven stakeholders to get together and work toward the common goal of addressing food insecurity in our city,” Borer said. “We have so many organizations and volunteers that work hard every day to address the needs of our residents, but there is an opportunity to streamline and collaborate as it’s critical to get our arms around what everyone is doing, and to help communicate all resource options to our residents”
West Haven resident Roland Depew, who has been working on food insecurity relief through Project Hope and suggested the group meet.
“I’ve been working with the food insecure for the past 12 years since moving back to West Haven,” he said. “The need continues to grow, and our strength is in those who want to make a difference. We lose a big opportunity by not forming our local team to meet this challenge.”
The organizations and partners that were part of the kick-off meeting included: City of West Haven, First Congregational Church of West Haven, Food In Service to the Homebound of Greater New Haven, Gateway Christian Fellowship, Church of the Holy Spirit, Haven’s Harvest, LifeBridge Community Services, Purple Pantry Boxes, Rotary Club of West Haven Foundation, Vertical Church, West Haven Child Development Center, West Haven Community House. West Haven Emergency Assistance Taskforce (WHEAT), West Haven Public Schools, and Westies Care.
One of the first action steps on the heels of the meeting involved necessary funding. Members Alan Olenick, Director of Development for West Haven Community House, and WHEAT Executive Director Michael Savenelli are working on a $10,000 grant application for the Food System Capacity Building Grant. The funds would be used to organize and promote a new West Haven Food Policy Council.
A local food policy council would help to bring organizations together to develop better, implement and coordinate the food system policies, and to ensure residents are aware of resources available.
Savinelli saw it as a step toward coordination of effort.
“A local food policy council is an important step in West Haven expanding and optimizing its services to meet better the complex needs of its residents experiencing food insecurity. For almost 50 years,” he said. “WHEAT has been at the heart of the fight against food insecurity in the region, providing emergency food and support services to those who need them, but the most effective way to address large-scale societal problems is to have a robust network of providers, lawmakers, and stakeholders working in concert with one another.”
Olenick said the makeup of the group portends a successful effort.
“By their very nature, food policy councils are made up of dedicated people from the nonprofit, public and government sectors. Each group brings different talents and knowledge to the table. A key goal for a West Haven Food Policy Council would be to examine our local food system and to provide recommendations and guidance for improvement,” he said.
“With everything our West Haven has to offer, no one should be left hungry. We just need to tweak the system to better align resources with needs. I’m confident that this new council will very soon serve as a model for other cities,” said Borer.