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Ten Years of Filling in the Blanks

Ten years ago we learned that there were over 32,000 children in Fairfield County facing food insecurity and recognized that there was an unaddressed need in our community. Thousands of families simply need more food than they are able to afford or access. And for kids, the weekend—while they are away from school—can mean little to no food.

We arrived at the solution of sending kids home on Fridays with extra food to fill the literal gap contributing to their food insecurity. And that’s how it all began.

Having both used food assistance programs at different stages in our lives we felt it was important to jump in head first and be part of the solution locally. The thought of our own kids going to bed hungry was unbearable and now that we were in a position to do something to help other parents and families that’s exactly what we were going to do.

Learning along the way

Since neither of us had ever run a company or organization before we asked lots of questions and recruited help from anyone that was willing to lend their assistance.

The ups and downs over the years—especially most recently—has reinforced one really important lesson: food insecurity doesn’t discriminate. As economies shift and the cost of living has risen, people find themselves needing food assistance for the first time. We’ve been there ourselves.

Every situation is different. Some families have struggled with food insecurity for multiple years while others are experiencing this hardship for the first time. We’ve learned that food insecurity can come in many shapes and forms—from a single parent who has just lost their job to a grandparent who has taken in a grandchild and now has more expenses than anticipated. We strive to treat everyone with dignity by communicating regularly with parents and kids receiving the weekend bags and understanding what items they would actually like to eat, are culturally acceptable & what they would actually like to eat instead of us deciding for them.

Growing stronger through adversity

Our community has weathered a lot—we went through a whole global pandemic!—and we’re stronger because of it. The pandemic forced us to pivot in a variety of ways. Notably, we made significant shifts to the registration process that gave us direct access to participating families. During the pandemic this ensured we could continue to deliver despite school closures or other disruptions, but it’s had lasting benefits. We’re able to promote our program directly to the larger community without having to rely solely on the schools, and we have a better understanding of the families we serve through direct contact with them as well.

Our experience of the pandemic highlighted the strength and commitment of our volunteers and their desire to help, even in the most uncertain of times.

We simply couldn’t do what we do without such an amazing community of volunteers and supporters. Filling in the Blanks’s solution is simple, it’s tangible, and highly impactful. And our volunteers get to feel and see that impact. It’s really rewarding to know you’re a part of something that will be going directly to a family and making a very real difference for them.

With gratitude,

Tina & Shawnee


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