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Old Guard Meets Virtually, Hosts Foodshare CEO

Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of Foodshare, on a Zoom call with members of the Old Guard. Courtesy of Don Kauke

The Old Guard has been meeting in person in West Hartford for 54 years, but in May began a series of virtual meetings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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After 54 years of weekly meetings in auditoriums, the Old Guard met virtually for the first time on Tuesday morning, May 12. Guest speaker for the meeting was Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of Foodshare and a West Hartford resident.

Jakubowski told of the major challenges being faced by the community and his organization during this time of pandemic response. According to Jakubowski, “There are over 118,000 food insecure persons in the Hartford-Tolland region. In order to respond to their needs, Foodshare organized a donor session at the Hartford Regional Market. The line of cars, over 800, extended all the way south to the Chowder Pot restaurant. Realizing the need for more space, we obtained agreement from the state to use the parking lots at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The first day there, we had 900 cars. On the next day, we had 2,600 cars! And it has continued at that level since,” he said.

“We surveyed clients and learned that 70% had never used our facility before. On that day, each client received 20 pounds of food, all prepackaged to reduce handling.”

Jakubowski continued, “While the number of clients has increased, our traditional food market suppliers have had to reduce their contributions. The major markets have, however, made significant monetary contributions. Money funds are a challenge as last year our total purchase expenditures were around $300,000, we have already spent that much this year. And in our purchasing, we are having to compete with other food programs for the materials.

“Social distancing is also having an effect on how we are staffed at our distribution center, with our packaging teams now consisting of six people. Our traditional corporate teams are now working from home and not available to volunteer and our own office staff is working from home,” he said.

Jakubowski thanked the Old Guard for their volunteering at the distribution center before the pandemic and for their ongoing financial contributions.

Foodshare serves the hungry and food insecure in Hartford and Tolland counties. Contributions can be made to Foodshare and sent to the following address: Foodshare, 450 Woodland Ave., Bloomfield, CT 06002.

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