WALLINGFORD — About one in 10 people in the state experience food insecurity, according to Connecticut Foodshare. On Friday the organization got a big contribution to fight food insecurity from one of the region’s largest supermarkets.
Officials from Stop & Shop were at Connecticut Foodshare’s offices on Research Parkway to present a symbolic big check to the organization for $650,000 - a $400,000 grant from the store’s Family Foundation and $250,000 in contributions from customers from its “Food for Friends” fundraising drive.
“It’s always a great day when our friends from Stop & Shop are out here,” said Jason Jakubowski, Connecticut Foodshare’s president and CEO, “and it’s even better when they’re bringing very large checks like this.”
Also on hand was Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the CEO of Feeding America, the national organization to which Connecticut Foodshare belongs. She said it was fortuitous that she was there.
“Sometimes the planets just line up and this would be one of those times,” she said. She had been trying to arrange to visit the state but “different things came up, and then it winds up being today I get to be here, a day I get to say thank you to the people of Connecticut for your extraordinary generosity, especially during the pandemic when you stepped up in way that really were emblematic of the best parts of what it means to live in this country.”
“And on this day I get to say thank you to an extraordinary partner, Stop & Shop,” she said. “I’ve never lived in a place with a Stop & Shop, so I’m thinking on my way out of town, one of the things on the list I am going to Stop & Shop, and I will be the person who is randomly thanking customers, telling them it’s because of you.”
The donation is just one in a series of donations throughout the years from the store that is Foodshare Connecticut’s biggest benefactor, Jakubowski said.
“It’s significant that Claire is here because we have a lot of wonderful donors, but it is a fact that Stop & Shop is our largest donor in terms of food and in terms of money,” he said. “I know that it’s not just Stop & Shop — it’s Stop & Shop and its customers, Stop & Shop and its customers have continuously been a great source of both pride and support for us here at Connecticut Foodshare and I would go as far as to say we could not do what we do without Stop & Shop. Whether it’s being the lead sponsor on our walk, which we had two weeks ago, whether it’s giving us a couple thousand turkeys at Thanksgiving time, whether it’s providing retail rescue during the week, or whether it’s providing us much-needed funds or any other type of support that we need, Stop & Shop is always there.
“We want to express our thanks not just to Stop & Shop the company but to your customers as well because that means the world to us and allows us to be able to do what we do every single day,” Jakubowski said.
The store is proud to assist the organization, said Jennifer Barr, the director of communications and community relations at Stop & Shop.
“As the neighborhood grocer here in Connecticut, Stop & Shop is incredibly proud to partner with Connecticut Foodshare in its mission to create a hunger-free Connecticut,” she said.
All of its 400 stores across the northeast, including our 18 in Connecticut, are paired with a Feeding America agency, she said, “which picks up unsold food which is still fresh and still high quality and gets it to the people who need it most.”
The Stop & Shop Family Foundation is awarding Connecticut Foodshare the $400,000 grant to specifically combat childhood hunger, Barr said. The $250,000 balance came from its 33rd annual Food for Friends campaign that ran in the stores last month.
Barr, who also sits on the Connecticut Foodshare board of directors, credited Jakubowski for the organization’s success.
“You are so genuine with your care for this cause of food insecurity,” she told him. “You are the real deal and we are so proud to be along on the journey and to support you.”
Babineaux-Fontenot said people don’t always understand what an organization like Foodshare Connecticut means to the community, or as she put it, the “nitty-gritty” of what its people do, and having a partner like Stop & Shop makes that all possible.
“Because of partners like you, not transactional, not just the money but the people who volunteer here, people who invest energy in the work, you’re investing in thriving communities in Connecticut when you do that,” she said. “The way I think about it when I go to bed at night, I think about the people who are going to bed tonight hungry and what that means. I think about the grandmas who were not expecting to have to take care of their grandchildren, and because of the work that we do together, they have food to feed their grandkids, and those grandparents don’t have to make those impossible choices whether they’re going to pay their electricity bill or eat themselves.
“I think about those kids who need food to thrive, whose brains don’t develop without nutrition, little kids who because of these types of partnerships have the food,” she said. “Parents who don’t have the trauma and the worry of sending their kids to bed with empty bellies.”