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On Trail, Harp Helps Feed The Hungry
by Paul Bass | Oct 16, 2013 11:16 am
Posted to: Food, The Hill, Campaign 2013
After losing a grandson to a gunshot and her home to foreclosure, Carolyn Banks found herself collecting a free bag of apples—along with a Toni Harp mayoral campaign sticker.
Banks (pictured) for the first time joined hundreds of people lining up for a monthly free-food giveaway in the Hill neighborhood Tuesday morning.
Harp, the Democratic mayoral candidate for mayoral, spent the morning handing out hundreds of bags of apples to the people lined up in the parking lot of Pentecostal Church of Salvation at Columbus Avenue and Arch Street. She used the occasion to highlight the growing problem of hunger in New Haven as well as to discuss how she’d tackle the issue as mayor.
In just the past year, the number of families lining up to receive their monthly bags of fruits, vegetables and grains from the Connecticut Food Bank has leaped from about 160 to about 230, according to Ariel Martinez (pictured). Martinez, associate pastor of the church (which his father Juan founded in 1962) quarterbacked the food giveaway in the parking lot Tuesday.
Throughout the region, the Connecticut Food Bank has seen demand grow annually since the recession started in 2008; it distributed over 18 million pounds of food during the most recent fiscal year, according to CEO Nancy Carrington.
“It’s the economy,” Martinez suggested when asked why the demand has grown.
Banks’ experience offers one example of how more people end up on the food line.
Two years ago this month, an 18-year-old shot Banks’ 13-year-old grandson, Marquell “Quelly” Banks, to death. (Read about that here and here.) Carolyn Banks, a retired state social worker on a limited income, was left to put together the money to bury Quelly.
That set her back; she fell behind on her home payments. She eventually surrendered her house to foreclosure. Then she moved to the Bella Vista apartments; she struggles to pay bills on her pension and social-security payments. She showed up Tuesday morning after learning about the monthly food giveaway.
Others, like Al McAlpine (pictured), are regulars at the giveaway. McAlpine, a retiree and Vietnam-era vet who worked hazardous duty with nuclear warheads while stationed in Germany, was first in line Tuesday morning. He said a stroke has set him back.
“There are a lot of hungry people in New Haven. We’ve got to do something about it,” Harp said in between filling people’s bags or carts with the apples. Beside her, other workers handed out sweet potatoes, five-pound bags of rice, loaves of bread from Chabaso Bakery, three-pound bags of carrots, artichokes, and organic baby arugula. “These people wouldn’t be here if they didn’t need to be.”
Much of the work to combat hunger and promote “food security” needs to take place at the federal and state governments, Harp said. The federal government distributes food stamps through the states (and is looking to cut back on them). As a state senator, Harp helped beat back cuts to senior nutrition vouchers, enable people to use food stamps at farmers markets, start a “farm-to-school program” putting Connecticut-grown food into local schools, and require that school vending machines offer more healthful, lower-fat options. Before that, as a New Haven alderwoman, she led a successful effort to make free breakfasts available to all schoolchildren.
As mayor, Harp said, she would spearhead a citywide campaign to encourage people to exercise and eat better. She also promised to help vendors get permits to sell healthful foods from more mobile carts, replicate a Philadelphia model to help corner groceries to work together to buy more fresh produce, and develop a “specialty-food small-business incubator.”
Food policy has emerged as an issue in this year’s mayoral campaign. Click here to read about a candidates’ debate devoted solely to the topic. Click here to read Toni Harp’s full position paper on food security. Justin Elicker, Harp’s opponent in the Nov. 5 general election, has called for the city to create “healthy food zones” around schools, where stores can only sell healthful fare; regulate ice-cream trucks; inform more people about food stamps so they can qualify; advise recipients on how to make food stamps last longer each month; help farmers markets open in more neighborhoods; convert more vacant land to “urban farming”; and “mandate nutrition education in our schools.” Click here and here for more on Elicker’s food positions.
Harp was impressed at all the fresh produce distributed Tuesday. Carrington said the food bank has made a concerted effort to distribute healthful food.
“When people don’t have access to good nutritious food, people get sicker. It costs us more in the long run,” Harp observed. “It’s in our interest to make sure people eat well. We pay on the other end with diabetes and amputations” if they don’t.
Recipients said they appreciated seeing a political candidate take the time to hand hundreds of them food.
“Not too many people that want to get in office come out here and do this. They’ll take our vote, but that’s it,” said one woman (who declined to give her name. She said she would “most likely” vote for Harp as a result.
“You’re gonna win, right?” Namon Townsend asked Harp after she gave him his apples.
“If you vote for me!” Harp responded.
“I voted for you last time,” Townsend assured her.
Later he and his companion, Clarissa Austin, said they’ll indeed vote for Harp. They have always supported her state senate campaigns, they said.
It turns out that it might take more than apples to win Banks’ vote. She supported Henry Fernandez in the Democratic mayoral primary after he made an impressive pitch at Bella Vista. She remains undecided in the general election contest between Harp and “the other fellow,” who is a “younger man” who “needs a chance,” Banks said. She said she found the governor’s visit to New Haven to endorse Harp “a bit much.” When it came to the bread and potatoes and apples she was bringing home, on the other hand, Banks cast a decisive thumbs up.
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This shouldn’t be a scene that repeats itself in multiple places across this city, and in every city in the country, and now increasingly even in the suburbs, in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet.(not that there’s anything wrong with charity, I mean the sheer number of people who line up for giveaways of basic food stuffs. It’s multiplied by so much in the past 15 years)
Never seen her do anything like that before and this will probably be the last time too…
elmcityresident: If I recall correctly didn’t Toni just lead a huge food drive for people from Bella Vista who were displaced by that fire a few months ago.
Maybe you just don’t pay attention to the good she does because you are so busy trying to find fault with the most qualified candidate for mayor our city has even had run for the office.
@ Elm City Res
She’s done food banks countless times before. She also works as Director of Homeless Services for Hill Health Center.
maybe so but i’ve never heard of her doing this didnt even know she’s the director of homeless services…WOW!Being that i live in the “inner” city i’d figure i’d known that!
That say alot to me!!
How is it appropriate for Columbus House, a 501c3 nonprofit organization explicitly prohibited from promoting political candidates, to stage a photo op like this for Toni Harp? It is sad to see so many organizations that receive state funds lining up to kiss the ring. If Harp has truly been such a stellar state senator, shouldn’t she stay there?
This was a smart move on the part of her marketing team. Sort of like the old cliche of a politician kissing babies on the campaign trail.
The Connecticut Food Bank does necessary, important, wonderful work. I have been donating for several years now.
And Toni Harp deserves credit for the work she has done as a state senator to help make or keep food available to those in need, and to try to make sure the food is healthy food.
I do have a question prompted by this article, which perhaps someone will have an answer for. Is it wise for a non-partisan non-profit organization to involve itself in an election campaign? Having a candidate for office appear at a distribution site to talk about food security, say, might be one thing, but engaging the candidate to actually be someone who hands over food, suggesting it comes from him or her, seems to cross a line.
I could be off base here, but I do think I would be asking the same question if it had been Justin Elicker who had been giving away the food.
[Editor’s Note: Here’s a similar story about a Justin Elicker campaign stop hosted by another not-for-profit and highlighted as an Independent top story: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/elicker_soup_kitchen/ ]
Oh come on, Independent. This headline came in a close second to “On Trail, Harp Walks on Water,” huh? Does Bass even pretend to be impartial anymore? What’s journalism again?
I am with indigo
note line 4 on this IRS form
I am sure team harp was aware of this and did not care. the food bank has saved me and my children a few times when I was in need. And I understand that they are trying to make nice with the harp…..but it is big time against the law. And what is even more questionable is she works with homeless services so I am guessing she her self knew this was inappropriate if her staff did not.
but hey it was a good photo op. Kudos for putting a non profit at risk.
I like that she is giving people “a fish” but Elicker will be the candidate that will teach that man to fish and give him the tools to do it! Big difference.
Do you think that Elicker be invited to help hand out food and campaign stickers next week?
Editor sure is quick to defend Senator Harp.
Per editor’s linked article “Elicker stopped by at the invitation of soup kitchen coordinator David O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan has invited all six of the mayoral candidates to visit; Elicker is the first to take him up on the offer.”
Inviting all of them isn’t the same as inviting one of them. Did the Food Bank make the same offer to appear to Mr Elicker? Why isn’t this reporter finding that out before posting the defense of Harp?
Powers is right. This is not exactly journalism at it’s finest.
Editor: Excellent comparison. Thanks. You often try to point out that the NHI tries for even-handedness, especially over time.
I do still wonder about the appropriateness of this sort of event, regardless of who is participating.
As I said, I could be off base.
Elicker, your fans are once again wrapping themselves in glory by attacking this story. Have your campaign and unhinged followers have no shame?
Note to the Editor about the Editor’s Note;...
Harp’s presence at a church/CTFoodBank giveaway seems to be a coordinated campaign event, excluding other candidates and appears to violate election law and IRS rules.
Elicker’s presence at a soup kitchen wasn’t a coordinated campaign event between one campaign and a 501c3. In your very own words, the soup kitchen “invited all six of the mayoral candidates to visit; Elicker is the first to take him up on the offer.”
Love CTFoodBank but just sayin’. Not cool for non-profits to be effectively endorsing one candidate with events like this.
Citizen X - it is commendable that Harp is drawing attention to the issue of hunger (just as Elicker did, earlier). But if non profit organizations are throwing campaign events, that is going to be an issue to some people and ultimately is not in the best interests of the people who are desperate for these services.
Elicker supporters have to defend our candidate from false accusations that he promised to lower taxes and true “attacks” that he was able to pass the incredibly selective foreign service exam and serve his country.
Harp supporters have to defend their candidate from false accusations that she is helping to feed the needy only for selfish gain.
NHI has to defend itself by proving that it has covered both candidates in the act of feeding hungry people.
I have my very strong preferences between the candidates, but I must say that all cities should envy such a ballot to choose from.
To quote the t-shirt: “New Haven. It’s Better Than Your Town.”
It is clear from reading the first 2 sentences of Toni Harp’s “Food Security Position Paper” (actual title) that she has no idea what she is talking about:
“One of the great things about New Haven is that we already lead our state in food policy. From having our own Food Policy Council, to supporting dozens of urban community gardens and farmers’ markets, to sponsoring the John C. Daniels School Garden at Common Ground’s Garden Resource Center…”
First, if you acknowledge how great it is to have a Food Policy Council, then you should also acknowledge that the FPC created a comprehensive Food Action Plan which awaits implementation. Rather than just repeat the ideas articulated in the FAP, you could refer citizens to the document.
Second, the John C. Daniel School Garden is at John C. Daniels School, and Common Ground’s School Garden Resource Center is a consultation service, not a place. But, I guess when you pay someone else to throw these “position papers” together, at the last minute, then you end up with this kind of nonsense and self-aggrandizement. One thing is for sure, if Toni Harp gets elected, its going to be 2 years of her trying to grasp what’s already happening in New Haven all the while taking credit for it.
Elicker stopped by at the invitation of soup kitchen coordinator David O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan has invited all six of the mayoral candidates to visit; Elicker is the first to take him up on the offer.
Sorry, editor. That’s vastly different from the CT Food Bank inviting only Toni Harp to a distribution event and allowing her to hand out free food.
“Not too many people that want to get in office come out here and do this. They’ll take our vote, but that’s it,” said one woman (who declined to give her name. She said she would “most likely” vote for Harp as a result.
This is the saddest thing I’ve read all year. Do you really think Toni Harp would be handing out food donations if she weren’t running for public office? Nay, she’s banking on this type of gullible voter to carry her into city hall.
Amazing…. Harp volunteers for a food bank and uses her campaign to call attention to an important issue that has been one of her major legislative priorities for years. Yet, the NHI commentariat finds ways to infer corruption. The absolute willingness to criticize anything associated with Harp made me stop taking them seriously long ago.
But this is just laughable!! Perhaps you all should start an online petition that protests these volunteer efforts and demands an apology from Harp! Maybe try to get get CT Food Bank’s nonprofit status revoked. I’m sure many share your outrage and these efforts would be met with overwhelming support!! I can hear the chants now, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, this vital food bank has got to go…” Heck, Anon could attend next month’s event and win converts by informing individuals about their true interests. Onwards and upwards commentariat! The vanguard of imagined and arbitrary good governance standards can never rest!
Question for the editor: did you get permission from all the people whose photographs appear with the story? If not, that seems a bit exploitative—I personally wouldn’t want everyone who reads the Independent to see that I had to go to the food bank. (Not to fault anyone who does need assistance, but there is a stigma attached and people should be allowed their privacy).
While this photo op for Harp puts her in a positive light, and she does offer some reasonable solutions, Elicker’s previous hunger-related appearance was not questionably ethical and he provided some interesting solutions. I also liked how he addressed getting to the root causes of hunger and poverty as opposed to only thinking of solutions for the problem at hand.
[Editor: Thanks for the question. Yes, I asked people’s permission’s permission before shooting photos. Several asked not to be photographed and weren’t.]
posted by: William Kurtz on October 17, 2013 7:24am
I wondered about that headline, too, which makes it sounds as if the Senator was providing food out of her own pocket instead of posing for photos for a few minutes and handing out stickers.
On another, related note, Elm City Cycling surveyed all of the mayoral candidates over the summer about their views on transportation policy; Mr. Elicker was the only candidate to respond before the deadline. To date, after repeated requests, Senator Harp has not responded.
You call Harps actions help; I call them exploitation.
Plus you know very well that non-profits are forbidden from assisting political campaigns; CTFB was wrong to allow a political candidate to use their event as a photo op.
“Carolyn Banks found herself collecting a free bag of apples—along with a Toni Harp mayoral campaign sticker.”
Eddie, the point about adverse impact on “public interests” has to do with whether people might stop donating to a non-profit organization if they are handing out campaign stickers at their publicly-supported service events.
You consider this concern to be an attack on food banks, when in fact, it is precisely the opposite.
@robn and Indigo,
my point exacly!!! sorry i’m not a fan of either candidates! BOOP
The comments above are the very height of campaign silliness (IMHO). Whining about a candidate helping to serve the public at a food bank, threatening to attack the 501c(3) status of the Food Bank, making veiled threats to withhold future donations because Elicker wasn’t involved. SMH. All this, when Elicker himself staged a similar event, but wasn’t as successful at it as Harp’s campaign. Get a grip Team Justin, there are more important things going on in this campaign than your hurt feelings at being upstaged.
I note that Justin held a recent event, staged by his mini-me Kermit, where Kermit rounded up his Hillhouse students and drove them to an Elicker event.
Notwithstanding that Kermit was known as the “9 to 5 Principal” during the campaign (Principal by day ... erstwhile candidate for Mayor by night and on weekends), he nevertheless found it a priority to solicit campaign support for Elicker from his student charges. If Elicker had any concern for the students’ well-being he would have demanded that Hillhouse develop and implement a plan to address the ever larger Achievement Gap at that school. Please, stop using our students for your cheap political campaign purposes.
@ Elm City Res
As adults, we are all responsible for being aware of things that matter in our lives—especially things about the candidates we profess to love or hate. Her bio has been available for the 20+ years she has represented you in the State Legislature.
If Toni Harp had been representing me for 20+ years in the State Senate, both New Haven and Connecticut would be in much better shape. I’m not sure WHO she’s been representing all this time.
If you care to know more about your Senator, including the many awards, citations and professional commendations she has received in the course of representing you, please check out this link. It should answer your question as to WHO she has been representing.
Amazing. Here’s the difference between the Toni supporters and the Justin supporters.
Justin does some staged discussion with high school students [brought to him by Kermit Carolina]. Read the comments. The Toni folks don’t bother to to write all kinds of nasty stuff. It’s a campaign event with kids. So what?
Toni goes to a food distribution program, and does the exact same thing that Justin did a few months ago.
Kablooey! Corruption! Abuse of 501(c)(3) status! Twisting fact into ridiculous yoga positions to try to distinguish between the two events!
We even get nasty comments about Toni’s day job, impugning a career of service to the city by implying that she doesn’t really do anything in that job because a commenter never heard what her job was—something that says a lot more about the clueless commenter than about Toni.
Toni’s supporters could have piled on the student focus group story by trolling fake scandals about Kermit’s role. Did he use city resources???? Did Justin bribe them with pizza??????
But really, why bother? We’ll leave the trolling to the trolls.
Go ahead. Spew your poison. Try to smear someone for working to bring health care services to homeless people. That’ll get Justin a lot of votes.
Now the NHI’s readers know who you really are. And the more you spew without him repudiating your venom, the clearer it is who Justin really is.
On a more serious note, it is articles such as this one that makes me appreciate Toni’s productivity even as an alderwoman. Just from the NHI’s reporting on her career we have learned that as an alderwoman, she led efforts to institute community policing and free breakfasts for all school children.
Both policies are important progressive victories at the municipal level, and they reveal great foresight as a policy-maker. New Haven adopted community policing before many other cities and is now returning to it. The value of free breakfasts is being studied in contemporary research. Free breakfasts prevent children from going hungry, but they are also an efficient way to raise student performance particularly in low income schools (http://econweb.ucsd.edu/~ddotter/pdfs/Dotter_JMP_Manuscript.pdf). Even if we disregard Toni’s career at the state legislature, which is filled with similar progressive victories, her accomplishments as an alderwoman are more significant and more progressive than anything Justin has accomplished in the same office.
Per the other comments I have read on this site, Toni didn’t invent or lead community policing, she was peripherally involved.
Wow the vanguard of imagined and arbitrary good governance strikes again!! Nothing strikes more fear into the heart of power, than an unsupported hashtag, the formidable club of the internet troll.
The “!” mark of the poor argument. Eddie uses six, accountability uses two.
Eddie, have you asked yourself, whom is Doug Rae supporting, you know, the brain trust behind community policing.
So we can just count certain types of punctuation to evaluate an argument? Seems like a great strategy to me!!
I also agree that we can probably ignore the NHI’s analysis and use Doug Rae’s endorsement to draw conclusions about complicated committee work that occurred over 20 years ago. We should ignore the fact that his endorsement could be for a variety of reasons. We should ignore that he was primarily concerned with city pensions, when he hosted an event for Elicker (http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/yale_profs_size_up_elicker/). Instead we should use this endorsement with absolute certainty to support the biased and convenient conclusion that diminishes Toni’s contribution to community policing.
Actually I don’t agree with this argument at all. I’m sorry but it is just not cogent. It is simply a fact that Toni worked with Doug Rae to implement community policing policies. I don’t know if you have ever worked on a committee, but when people work collaboratively it is both difficult and petty to later conclude that one member deserves no credit for the collective work. This is a particularly ridiculous exercise to be undertaken by partisan individuals who did not participate on the committee and may not have even lived in New Haven at the time. Moreover, it is simply a fact that Toni led efforts to provide free breakfast to New Haven students. Both policies are progressive and surprisingly efficient policies. Either one is more significant than anything Justin has accomplished as an alder. But yeah, let’s just count explanation points or throw in a hashtag and call it good.