Basic Needs

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Sometimes it takes just one thing to happen unexpectedly to create family financial turmoil. It becomes difficult for one out of three families to meet their financial obligations and save for the future. When a crisis occurs, it can put a neighbor or loved one on the brink of eviction or foreclosure. Not having enough food, or losing heat or electricity, makes it difficult to imagine getting through the next day.

The ways we are providing basic needs support.

Kids’ Food BackPack Program

Many children whose families are struggling to make ends meet receive free lunch at school. However, these children often go without sufficient food during the weekend.  They arrive in school on Monday thinking more about feeding their   bellies than their minds and the impact on younger children is especially great.  The BackPack Program, a partnership of United Way and Connecticut Food Bank, provides elementary school students with discreetly distributed food in their backpacks on Friday afternoons to take home for the weekend. Each child receives 10 different food items that are nutritious, kid-friendly and ready to eat.

The BackPack Program currently serves approximately 800 students attending Bridgeport and Norwalk schools.

Giving Fund

Every year during the holiday season, The Connecticut Post, in partnership with United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, Family and Children’s Agency in Norwalk and Life Bridge in Bridgeport, publishes stories about local families in need. It kicks off on Thanksgiving Day with a front page story and runs weekly for about 10 weeks. Begun in 2009, the partnership has raised $ 160,238 from 826 donors and helped over 400 of our neighbors and their families in need.  The Giving Fund this year saw a 27% increase in the amount donated by readers, with the number of donors up 17% compared to last year.

As the cold weather settles in each year, we turn up the thermostat to keep ourselves and loved ones warm. Yet many of our neighbors are distressed knowing that they will not be able to keep pace with the cost of fuel. They know that their income, which barely covers the rising costs of food and housing, will not be enough to pay for heat. These neighbors would need to make difficult choices for themselves and their families without help from the Westport Warm Up Fund.

Here are some facts...Last year

  • 329 adults and 141 children were kept warm because they received heating assistance. This included 19 new households.
  • Westporters received over $185,000 in heating assistance from the state, the town, Operation Fuel and the Westport Warm-up Fund last year.
  • The average annual income of families receiving assistance is between $30,000 and $40,000.
  • 100% of all donations will be used to keep Westport residents warm this year.

The Westport Warm Up Committee is a community partnership sponsored by the Westport. Department of Human Services with United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, Westport Human Services Commission, Westport Senior Services Commission, Westport Woman’s Club, Interfaith Clergy Association of Westport-Weston, Westport Young Woman’s League and the Westport Y’s Men.

Prescription Drug Discounts

United Way of Coastal Fairfield County has partnered with FamilyWize to bring prescription discounts to individuals and families not covered by health insurance or those who do not have adequate medical coverage. We have joined the more than 700 United Ways in all 50 states in an effort to save people $30 million in the next year on the cost of their medicine. So far, more than 10 million cards have been distributed.

On average, the FamilyWize Prescription Discount card lowers the cost of medicine an average of 35%. United Way of Coastal Fairfield County is providing these cards free-of-charge to everyone in our community. There is no age restriction, no income restrictions, no limit on how many times you can use it and no waiting to get a card. Virtually all pharmacies accept the card.

In Coastal Fairfield County, the Familywize card has saved our neighbors $490,601 this year and $2.6 million since 2009.


Learn More:

How the card works

Pharmacy Lookup

Look up the savings on a prescription drug

Get your free Familywize Card (download the app, print the card, or have a card mailed)



The Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP)

EFSP began in 1983 with a $50 million federal appropriation. The program was created by Congress to help meet the needs of hungry and homeless people throughout the United States and its territories by allocating federal funds for the provision of food and shelter.

The program is governed by a National Board composed of representatives of the American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA; The Jewish Federations of North America; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; The Salvation Army; and United Way Worldwide. The Board is chaired by a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

What is United Way of Coastal Fairfield County’s role?

During its 28 years of operation, the national program has disbursed over $3.7 billion to over 13,000 local providers in more than 2,500 counties and cities.  Locally, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County administers $235,291 in EFSP funds that are distributed by 2 local boards to 21 local emergency and shelter organizations. –

How Are Emergency Food and Shelter Program Funds Used? Create info graphic

Program funds are used to provide the following, as determined by the Local Board in funded jurisdictions:

  • Food, in the form of served meals or groceries
  • Lodging in a mass shelter or hotel
  • One month's rent or mortgage payment
  • One month's utility bill
  • Equipment necessary to feed or shelter people, up to a $300 limit per item.

To learn more about the EFSP funds and the guiding principles, click here or go to