From the Field this month features essays from two Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare staff members who share a glimpse of what resonates for them in their work. Our contributors this month are Yahaira Escribano and Frederick Goodman.

Building Connections and Capacity
by Yahaira Escribano, Network Relations Representative

In May, I met online with our Hartford Pantry Coordinators, Managers, and Directors. This was the first time any of them had the chance to be in the same “room” as each other and have a real conversation about the need in our community and what we can do together as providers to remove barriers for community members and to make our work more efficient and effective as providers. Throughout that meeting, I was in awe of them! The resilience, strength, and power they all possess is infectious and inspiring. They all have been working non-stop since the pandemic began.

At the end of the day, we all want to help community members who are struggling. The issue is how we can help in a way that makes it easier for our guests and for partner organizations providing service. The conversation around this was authentic and innovative. Everyone had amazing ideas and strategies on how we can all be effective. I left the meeting feeling super motivated that we will make our emergency food system in Hartford better for programs and for community members seeking help. These program operators are leaders and are going to help lead a new way of providing services to the community. It isn’t just about meeting their basic needs; it is about helping people elevate themselves, so they thrive and aren’t just surviving. It is hard work and it will take time, but I am confident that with our partner agencies leading the way, and with my support from the food bank, we will achieve this. Hartford is not a huge city, so collaborating will be transformative for all of us. I am so excited about this!

I want to end by saying that this work does not just impact Hartford, but our entire state. All our partners have been and continue to be so strong and resilient. We are fortunate to be working with such incredible partner programs throughout our state. I look forward to great progress and more collaboration between all of us. Thank you all for your dedication, love, commitment, and empathy in the work you do.


Reflections on COVID Response and Resilience
by Frederick Goodman

Hello, I’m Frederick Goodman. I’ve been a member of the Connecticut Food Bank/Foodshare for the past five-and-a-half years. Currently, I work with our partner agencies in Fairfield County as the Network Relations Representative.

One main highlight that has inspired me in my work recently was when our Network team learned that the food bank would be making grant funds available to our food pantry and soup kitchen partners who remained open during COVID.

I spent much of 2020 doing research on how to build capacity with our partner agencies. I found that several food banks across the country offered their partners grants to build capacity in their service, often resulting in serving more people who were food insecure. I was excited that our food bank would offer COVID Response grants to our partners. One agency in particular that benefited from the grant was First Haitian Evangelical Food Pantry in Stratford. They were so excited to show me the six-foot deep freezer they were able to purchase because of the COVID Response grant they received. It was packed with more meat than they were able to have for their clients in the past. The smile on the coordinator’s face was filled with gratitude. I felt a sense of pride for our food bank that we could offer this great service to our partners.

Another agency to have benefited from the COVID Response grant is Neighbor to Neighbor in Greenwich. Yes, I did say Greenwich. Even Greenwich has people who are in need of food and other community services. Neighbor to Neighbor is currently operating its pantry in a temporary location on the farthest north end of town. They are building a new home close to the bus line that is expected to open in October of this year. They used their COVID Response grant toward a walk-in refrigerator, which will triple the storage capacity of their current single- and double-door refrigerators.

I have no doubt that my colleagues who work on the network programs team have similar stories of the tremendous work our partner agencies are doing to serve the community.