Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Money for a food pantry.

Making sure that the basic needs of people are met is just the right thing to do. And what could be more basic than food?

There are many reasons why people find themselves down on their luck and in need of a helping hand. And people in New Britain have always shown their compassion in their willingness to help people less fortunate than themselves.

For my own part, the role that the Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain long had as one of the city's major food pantries was an important reason why I have been a supporter of the Center and why I joined its Board. I was very upset when the Center no longer had the funding to continue providing food pantry services.

Since then, people in New Britain have been working hard to get one or more food pantries up to the capacity to meet the need. The strongest effort has been by the Salvation Army on Franklin Square. They have a building in the back of their main building that they have been working to build-out as a food pantry. The Spanish Speaking Center has also opened a food pantry referral service, in which they refer people to various smaller pantries that have available food.

I have been working for two things in order to help the situation. I have been advocating for the state Department of Social Services to make funding available to run food pantry services - and for dedicated funding in the state budget. And the Department has, in fact, made some funding available.

I have also been working to get funding to do the physical construction work that is needed to get one or more food pantries up to strength. I introduced legislation to dedicate $150,000 for this purpose for New Britain. I originally proposed this as something that could be used for more than one site - and it still might. It has looked for a while like the Salvation Army would be able to make best use of the funding in the short run, and that would be find with me, if that is what is best to help people.

I was happy to succeed in winning approval of this $150,000 in the state bond act that was approved last week by the legislature. (Though it is listed as "property acquisition", it is really intended for renovations.) I would note the terrific support of Sen. Donald DeFronzo in securing this money.

However, there seems to be a snag. Gov. Rell has announced that she intends to veto the state bond act, including the food pantry funding. The New Britain Herald has covered this story in an article Monday and another yesterday. There are also a lot of other important things for New Britain that the Governor is saying she will veto, as well, like money for a new facility for the Pathways-Senderos Center (needed because they are forced to move), construction work at the Prudence Crandall Center, replacing Brooklawn Street bridge, downtown development, needed renovations at the Sloper Wesoly Polish cultural center and more.

The other New Britain legislators and I have been working hard to address real concerns in our community that have been brought to our attention by the hard-working people of our city. Sen. DeFronzo, especially, has done a great job in moving forward proposals for funding that is really needed. If the things that we approved in the bond act were not needed, we would never have proposed them.

And this is especially true of my $150,000 proposal to help the good-hearted people of New Britain get food to the hungry.

I really wish that the Governor would back away from her hard line and agree to approve these important projects. And the first step is for her to cool down her rhetoric and sign the bond act.