Five days, One dress
By: Naomie Baptiste and Caitlin Gallagher
On a single night, more than half a million Americans go homeless, which represents 0.2% of the US population.(1) According to the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project (https://yhhap.org/), the same number of Connecticut residents alone rely on SNAP assistance. The Junior League of Greater New Haven sought to address this problem with the implementation of the Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI) during the week of April 18-22, 2022. Founded in 2014 by the Junior League of London, the Little Black Dress Initiative is a week-long awareness and fundraising campaign that harnesses the power of social media to illustrate the restrictions poverty places on choices, opportunities, and access to resources. Advocates wear one black dress (or outfit) for five consecutive days, in an effort to spark conversations and awareness about poverty and related issues, including food insecurity.
Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to affordable, nutritious food, and impacts 13.9% of Connecticut residents; but in New Haven, the rate is 22%--twice the national average. Compassionate Greater New Haven members took action by wearing their little black dresses; posting on social media platforms; and contacting their networks to raise funds using data, imagery, and even signs reading "all children deserve access to 3 healthy meals everyday." The initiative gained attention of the local community and compelled the hearts of supporters, resulting in success for its inaugural year in New Haven. During the first Junior League of Greater New Haven Little Black Dress Initiative, the chapter raised an impressive $3,500 during the week of LBDI, reaching the set goal of $5,000 by the end of month. The Little Black Dress Initiative was spearheaded by the Finance Committee.