But last Tuesday, she was in line with her two young granddaughters for free produce from Mobile Foodshare at the First Church of Christ Congregational on Main Street.
For Hartley, who said she was laid off from her job as a project manager about six years ago and then laid off from a subsequent job two years ago, every little bit helps. Her eligibility for unemployment ran out two months ago.
“It supplements our food,” Hartley said of the Foodshare truck. “They’ve been very helpful, and it’s fresh, healthy food.”
Hartley is among a growing number of people who live in Connecticut’s upper-middle class suburbs and who need help putting food on the table.
“Not a week goes by that we don’t hear at a mobile site or … from a pantry somewhere saying this family came in that said ‘I used to give to this program. I never thought I’d need help, but I got laid off or my wife got laid off or we both got laid off, and here we are because we need to feed our kids,'” said Gloria McAdam, president and CEO of Foodshare.
Since the Great Recession started, Foodshare, a Bloomfield-based nonprofit that serves as the food bank for Hartford and Tolland counties, has expanded its mobile program to towns like Glastonbury, Avon and Hebron.
The Mobile Foodshare program fills trucks with donated produce and sends them to different sites every day. It started with deliveries in places like Hartford and New Britain, and now makes nearly 50 stops in 20 towns.
Food pantries in these and other seemingly idyllic communities are serving a population that is growing at a rapid rate.
Foodshare served 128,000 people in Connecticut last year, or one in eight. Of those, 50,000 were children, according to McAdam. That’s up from 100,000 people just two years ago, an increase that can be attributed to need and not just Foodshare’s growth, she said.
“The need has grown by 30 percent, but we’re only growing 3 or 4 percent each year,” she said.
In Glastonbury, usage of the social services department’s food bank has tripled since the 2007-2008 fiscal year, said Janine Fiedler, social services coordinator. That year saw 153 people visit the food bank, compared with 450 in 2010-2011.
“I can say that we’ve been having people come in and say, ‘Well, we always gave to the food bank, and now we have to receive,'” Fiedler said. “It’s true — people are in their houses and have their mortgages and then they get laid off. Where does the money come from?”
Hartley, whose husband teaches at Guitar Star Studio, is one of those people.
“I made a lot of money at Aetna. Every year, I got stars on my performance reviews,” she said. And then one day, she said, she was asked to pack up her desk and leave by the time the Christmas luncheon ended.
“I try to accept the fact that here is where I am right now,” said Hartley, who cares for her three grandchildren while her daughter works. “God must have wanted me to be a full-time grandma at some point in my life.”
In Avon, the number of households using the food bank at the Church of St. Ann has tripled in the past two or three years, according to Alan Rosenberg, the town’s director of social services. In June, 94 households, or 263 people, were served, he said.
“In the old days, it would be 25 or 30 households,” Rosenberg said. “There are around 300 families that are actually eligible. That’s gone up at least double in the past couple years.”