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As pandemic conditions improve, Connecticut Foodshare closes meal program

Connecticut Foodshare has ended its drive-thru meal distribution program after 18 months, a sign that food security is rebounding as pandemic conditions improve.

The organization implemented the program in March 2020 to meet increased demand while adhering to federal guidelines about social distancing and contact-free delivery. Connecticut Foodshare also began purchasing food directly, using new funding from the state.

These were initially billed as “emergency measures,” but decreased food security persisted throughout 2020 and into 2021. At the pandemic’s peak last fall, there were as many as 550,000 food-insecure people in Connecticut -- more than 30% higher than typical pre-pandemic levels. In response, the organization extended the operation (which was always meant to be temporary) several times over the last 18 months.

Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of Connecticut Foodshare, said the program has reached its natural end.

“The number of people using those distributions, they were nowhere close to where they were at their peak,” he said. “Connecticut had the highest vaccination rate. And you look at the job climate in Connecticut, there’s definitely a tremendous amount of job availability.”

Recent estimates from Connecticut Foodshare place the number of food-insecure Connecticut residents at 480,000. This remains significantly higher than the estimated pre-pandemic baseline of 410,000, and Jakubowski said there is still substantial demand at their traditional food banks.

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