[Excerpt from news feature by Meghan Friedmann, New Haven Register, June 21, 2023]

HAMDEN – Free meals for Hamden kids will help families facing food insecurity get through the summer, but with pandemic-era relief programs ending, uncertainty over who will qualify for free and reduced-price meals surrounds the coming school year.

The summer meals program, which provides free breakfast and lunch on weekdays until Aug. 20, is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, according to a release from Hamden Public Schools.

“We know a large percentage of kids are qualifying for free and reduced-price meals,” said Jennifer Heath, president and CEO of United Way of Greater New Haven, a nonprofit that helps fight hunger in Hamden. [....]

The summer meals program, which also took place last year, comes as data suggests that hunger is on the rise across the state.

Heath referenced statistics from a DataHaven survey, which found that the proportion of Connecticut adults who reported not having enough money to buy food nearly doubled during that timeframe, from 10 percent to 17 percent.

The survey found an even starker change for families.

“It was really pronounced for families with children, so across the state 23 percent of families with children said they struggled with food insecurity,” said Heath. “It almost doubled, so I believe it was 12 percent in 2021.”

The uptick in food insecurity is associated with the end of pandemic-related relief programs, and with inflation, said Heath. DataHaven found that food insecurity levels pre-COVID were higher than they were in 2021, but lower than in 2022. [....]