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“The Salvation Army is a good place,” is what one of the residents of the men’s shelter in New Britain said.

Hartford HealthCare launched a new program on Feb.11, in collaboration with local nonprofits, Connecticut Foodshare and The Salvation Army, to serve meals to food insecure individuals while reducing potential food waste in hospitals.

The COVID-19 pandemic is credited with sparking the idea behind the pilot program.

“We’ve learned a lot in the pandemic,” said Jeff Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford HealthCare. “Amongst the most critical messages and learnings is the need to improve the health equity, the disparities that exist within health care.”

Every Friday, excess meals from the Hospital of Central Connecticut will be delivered to the Salvation Army’s men’s shelter in New Britain, which is less than half of a mile from the hospital. The extra meals never leave the kitchen and are frozen until delivery to the shelter.

“We understand that the care that we provide within the confines of our hospital is life changing and life-saving,” said Gary Havican, president of the Hospital of Central Connecticut. “However, we also recognize the importance of going directly out into the community to care for people. That is also so important.”

Major Carl Avery, divisional secretary of The Salvation Army, said right now, the New Britain men’s shelter is housing 15 men. He said the donations from Hartford HealthCare are more than just a meal.

“Through these donations, I think our residents begin to understand first of all, that they’re acknowledged. We know that they’re there and they’re people in need,” Avery said.

The Salvation Army works with individuals to help give them the support they need to be successful. Getting the proper nutrition is part of that, Avery said.

“I’m on a path to get myself together, you know, with the nutritious food … you know, it’s such a blessing,” said Ron, resident of the New Britain men’s shelter.

Whitney Bundy, senior director of guest services at Hartford HealthCare said that initially, in order to reduce food waste, the Hartford HealthCare hospital system was composting unused food. This was part of a program from Hartford Healthcare’s food provider, Compass Group, called “Waste Not.”

“But we determined that we could do more with it and feed people who are in need,” Bundy said.

Flaks said that once he and his team realized the food going to compost could ultimately be used to better serve the community, they decided to work with Connecticut Foodshare. Their goal is to expand this program across the state in the near future.

“We’re able to provide food and nutrition and support to people within our community by virtue of leveraging the resources within our hospitals, together through this partnership and bringing them into the community,” Flaks said.

The partnership between Hartford HealthCare and Connecticut Foodshare goes beyond a business connection. Jason Jakubowski president and CEO of Connecticut Foodshare said he appreciated Flaks’s friendship.

Jakubowski said a year ago, he teamed up with Flaks to provide meals and COVID-19 vaccines to the community.

“This is another innovative way that we are working together,” Jakubowski said.

The pilot is near to Jakubowski’s heart since he grew up in New Britain. He said that New Britain is a community where more needs to be done to reduce food insecurity. He also explained how there are 438,000 people that are food insecure in Connecticut. He said that was “unacceptable” for the richest state in the U.S.

“And part of our problem as a nonprofit, just as Hartford HealthCare, is how do we find innovative ways to get more food to more people?” Jakubowski said. “Then things like this, come to us.”

Jakubowski said The Salvation Army’s work has been “imperative” throughout the pandemic.

“There’s certainly nobody else we’d rather be doing this with than the Salvation Army,” Jakubowski said.

This partnership is an example of how the local community working together can have a big impact.

“I hope it’s inspiring everyone within our organization to continue to think differently, ask ‘why not?’ and look for new ways to connect within our community to help more people,” Flaks said.