CHEFA recently announced a $26,000 grant award to The Access Community Action Agency to fund the purchase of a van to be used as a mobile food pantry serving Stafford, Willington, Brooklyn and Putnam. Putnam Bank also provided $1,000 to support the project.
CHEFA’s award was part of $1 million in grants provided to 28 nonprofit institutions throughout the state that assist in providing food, healthcare and shelter. CHEFA is a quasi-public agency created by the State Legislature to help Connecticut healthcare and educational institutions, and other not-for-profit entities obtain tax exempt financing. CHEFA is self-sustaining and receives no taxpayer funds. For more information about CHEFA, visit www.chefa.com.
The new van will allow Access to expand access to the supplemental food they currently provide through their Willimantic and Danielson Food Banks. The Mobile Food Pantry will deliver food weekly to low-income families living in Brooklyn, Putnam, Willington and Stafford. All four score in the lowest 10 percent for food security statewide according to a 2012 study on food security in Connecticut conducted by the UConn Cooperative Extension Program. Communities that have low food security are those with little or no transportation and food distribution infrastructure, and thus have limited options for accessing affordable healthy food locally.
Access estimates that 28,000 meals could be provided to over 350 people in the first year alone.
As part of the project, Access will also provide nutrition education that will help families learn how to prepare affordable nutritious meals in order to improve their intake of healthy food and stretch their food purchase budgets. The nutrition education services will be available to all families involved, and staff will work to engage customers in case management services to assist them in addressing needs beyond food insecurity. A longer term goal is to establish local food-buying clubs to increase the accessibility of healthy food through bulk purchasing and local distribution.
The Access Community Action Agency is the federal and state designated anti-poverty agency for northeast Connecticut. Access provides food, emergency shelter, energy assistance, energy conservation services, job and life skills training, youth mentoring, group homes, senior housing and more for low-income families and individuals. For more information about Access’ services, call (860) 450-7400 in the Willimantic area, (860) 412-1600 in the Danielson area, or visit www.accessagency.org.