Food insecurity in CT higher this year amid inflation, expiration of child tax credit, survey shows

Volunteers load food into waiting vehicles during the weekly CT Food Bank/Foodshare food donation at Calf Pasture Beach, in Norwalk, Conn. Feb. 17, 2021.

Volunteers load food into waiting vehicles during the weekly CT Food Bank/Foodshare food donation at Calf Pasture Beach, in Norwalk, Conn. Feb. 17, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

Food insecurity in Connecticut has increased in 2022, new survey data shows, amid a rise in inflation and the expiration of federal benefits such as last year's enhanced child tax credit.

According to a recent survey from the New Haven-based nonprofit DataHaven, 17 percent of Connecticut adults have been unable to afford food at some point in the past year, the highest total in the five years DataHaven has conducted its annual survey. 

That figure was 34 percent for Latino adults, 25 percent for Black adults and 11 percent for white adults, according to the survey. Meanwhile, it was 23 percent in households with children, as compared to 14 percent in those without children.

Mark Abraham, DataHaven's executive director, noted that food insecurity in Connecticut dipped in 2021 amid federal initiatives such as expanded unemployment benefits, a new child tax credit and several rounds of stimulus checks, then increased again this year as those benefits ended. Multiple studies have found that the child tax credit, which amounted to as much as $3,600 per child for many families, had an especially notable effect on the ability of families to afford food.

"The expiration of the child tax credit in particular was predicted to result in an increase in child poverty, and I think the data confirms that there is high need and higher economic stress in Connecticut now than last year when the relief programs were still in effect," Abraham said.

Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of Connecticut Foodshare, said DataHaven's new findings fit with what the organization has seen at its sites statewide. Need dropped when federal benefits arrived, then increased again once they disappeared, he said.

"[Those benefits were] a lifeline for a lot of families, especially a lot of working families," Jakubowski said. "We could tell when any one of those benefits expired because we would see an uptick in our lines out at the food trucks or at one of our 600 pantries across the state."

It doesn't help, Jakubowski said, that inflation has led to higher prices for food and other necessities. 

"A consumer's dollar doesn't go as far at the grocery story as before, so that requires them to rely on us more," he said.

According to the DataHaven survey, conducted in partnership with Siena College, 68 percent of Connecticut households report inflation having either "some impact" or a "large impact," including 73 percent of households with children. Unsurprisingly, food insecurity was higher among families that reported feeling the effects of inflation.

As part of its annual survey, DataHaven polled 1,196 Connecticut adults over a four-week period in August on various aspects of life in the state. Full results will be published next month, Abraham said.

Jakubowski said food insecurity, as measured by Connecticut Foodshare, peaked during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when long lines of cars waited for groceries at sites statewide. Though the current state is less dire, he said, Foodshare estimates that 425,000 people in Connecticut, including one in eight children, are currently food insecure.

"The good news is that the numbers are not as high as at the peak of the pandemic," Jakubowski said. "The bad news is that we are definitely not back to where we were pre-pandemic."