Most residents in Connecticut have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living. Yet each year there are households that experience limited access to food due to a lack of money or other resources. Between 2008 and 2010, 12.7 percent of residents in Connecticut were living in food insecure households (38% of which were living in 'households with very low food insecurity').2 Approximately one in seven CT households reported there had been times in the past year when they did not have enough money to buy food that they needed.3
Although it is extremely difficult to pinpoint where these food insecure households are located, one can look at certain town-level variables of food insecurity and draw comparisons on a town by town basis. For example, what towns have a population mix that are generally considered more likely to be food insecure? Are there some towns where proximity and thus geographic access to retail food is a particular challenge? Are food assistance eligible households accessing public programs to improve their food budgets? This report provides a picture of how towns in Connecticut compare to each other under three separate conditions:
- What is the likelihood that a resident in a particular town is food insecure?
- What is the geographic proximity from town population centers to food retailers?
- How well are town residents being served through public food assistance services and public bus transportation?
2 Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States in 2010. ERR-125, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. September 2011.
3 Food Hardship in America 2011, Food Research and Action Center, February 2012.
What is Food Security?
Two commonly used definitions of food security are as follows:
"Food security is access by all people at all times to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life." [United States Department of Agriculture]
"Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life." [United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization]
What is Community Food Security?
As a concept, community food security unites many strategies and goals of nutrition education, public health, sustainable agriculture, social justice, and anti-hunger.
"Community food security is a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice." [Mike Hamm and Anne Bellows from Community Food Security Coalition]
In this report, we examine community food security using the geographic boundaries of the 169 towns in the state of Connecticut with the expressed interest in providing town leaders and stakeholders with information about how towns compare with one another and potentially highlighting issues to address in regards to strengthening community food security.
The goals of this 2012 study are to:
- Provide a ranking of towns based on income and socioeconomic characteristics that contribute to the risk for food insecurity;
- Provide a ranking of towns based on food options using location data, GIS technology, and roadways to measure relative proximity to food retail establishments;
- Provide a ranking of towns based on how well public food assistance programs are being accessed by eligible individuals;
- Provide a map of Connecticut for each ranking;
- Provide resources to help guide policy makers and leaders toward evaluating and responding to community food security needs; and
- Develop results that are easy to interpret at the town level for municipal policy makers, regional planners, anti-hunger advocates, and community groups working to enhance food security and support fresh, local food and agriculture.
New approach to evaluating and ranking 169 towns:
In September 2005 the Connecticut Food Policy Council, University of Connecticut, and Hartford Food System published a joint report title "Community Food Security in Connecticut: An Evaluation and Ranking of 169 Towns." That report provided the first look at town level community food security in Connecticut and was received with great interest. After seven years, this report offers a new assessment of town-level food security in Connecticut with a simpler approach to looking at the same issue. We develop a three pronged approach that identifies towns with populations more likely to be food insecure, and then focus on two general areas that improve food security. We also eliminate some of the political town boundaries and now look at issues such as access to retail food with consideration of traveling to nearby neighboring towns. We hope this new approach will spur further discussion of this issue in a means that can help address food security in Connecticut.