Helping People in Need

Local 2863 members Carol Riccio, Joe Cirillo, Irene Keniry and Kathleen Flynn.

“Food Insecurity” is not an academic term. It means the lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times. And it’s a growing problem in our state.

According to Connecticut Food Bank, there are more than 400,000 people in our state at risk of hunger every year. They from all walks of life – children, working parents, seniors, people with disabilities.

Recognizing that food insecurity is all too real for state residents, many Council 4 unions and union members are doing their part to ease the problems. Here are some of those stories:

Steve Linton, AFSCME Local 1303-28 (South Windsor Public Works) helped spearhead a food drive to stock the shelves of the Tri-Town Pantry, which serves Ellington, Tolland and Vernon.

Linton resides in Vernon and is active with the Skinner Road School PTO, which sponsored the Nov. 11 food drive.

A parks and recreation maintainer and 14 year veteran of the South Windsor DPW, Linton kicked into gear after hearing David Engleson, chief executive officer of the Hockanum Valley Council, which runs the food bank, tell PTO members that Storm Albert wiped out the pantry’s already low supply.

Even though the storm had devastated the towns where he works and lives (including his own home), Linton threw himself into the project, securing a large truck and holding a food drive Nov. 11 at Skinner Road School.

Linton and fellow volunteers collected more than 1,600 food items, along with nearly $400 in cash donations, to help restock the Tri-Town Pantry.

“We’re a generous nation. We have no problems filling up a military C-5 to fly goods halfway around the world to help nations in dire need,” Linton reflected. “But we seem to forget we have people across the street and across the state who need help also.”

Linton plans another food drive in the spring.

AFSCME Local 2663 (State Human and Social Services): For the third consecutive year, Union President Paul Lavallee and Vice President Marilyn Fox traveled to the Connecticut Food Bank’s East Haven warehouse to deliver a $1,000 donation.

“For every $10 donated to our organization, we’re able to distribute food for 30 meals. Local 2663’s gift will translate into nearly 3,000 meals,” said Connecticut Food Bank Executive Director Nancy Carrington

Every year, AFSCME Local 2663 donates the proceeds from its annual membership picnic to a local non-profit organization.

“Our members are proud to help Connecticut Food Bank ‘map the meal gap,’” Lavallee said. “Too many working families in our state don’t even quality for federal benefits to feed themselves and their families. Connecticut Food Bank is doing everything in their power to help people in need.”

AFSCME Local 2863 (Hamden Town Employees/ School Crossing Guards) donated more than 70 Thanksgiving turkeys to the Hamden Food Bank.

The union will also provide $500 worth of Stop & Shop gift cards for post-Thanksgiving distribution through the town’s Community Services and Elderly Services departments.

Monies for the turkeys and gift cards came from town employees, both unionized and non-union.

According to AFSCME Local 2863 Vice President Joe Cirillo, the union has been donating turkeys and gift cards for the last eight years.

“This is certainly a pet project for me and something our union members are proud to do around the holidays. It gives us joy knowing that people who are in need can enjoy a nice Thanksgiving dinner.”

Added Local 2863 President Carol Riccio, Elderly Services Outreach Coordinator, “Food insecurity is a real and growing problem, particularly in these tough economic times. It’s important for us as town employees to do whatever we can, on the job and off, to give people a reason to celebrate the holidays.”

Local 1303-28's Steve Linton, back row, far right, at Tri-Town Pantry.

Want to learn more and help? Check out Foodshare and Connecticut Food Bank, two organizations leading the fight to feed Connecticut.