Beyond that dinner, Rodrigues' food future looks sketchy. He owns property a block away from Silver Sands State Park, and thanks to Hurricane Sandy he has no roof over his head. Forget about a kitchen to prepare meals. That room is three feet under water.
Like thousands of others, he has drained his $1,500 savings in the days after the storm and now is turning to soup kitchens and food pantries.
"Never in a million years would I think I'd need this kind of help, but I do," Rodrigues said. "I messed up my shoulder at work and just had surgery to put some pins in. I work as a mason, and I'm not set to return to my company for another two months. My house is wrecked. My car is destroyed. Oh -- and I lost my cellphone in the storm."
Rodrigues withdrew the last of his savings from his bank to buy plywood to board up his house and protect what's left of it from looters.
The Beth El soup kitchen and Milford's food pantry are seeing a modest uptick in food donations from area eateries and Dunkin' Donuts, but their needs and that of other pantries in the region -- from Neighbor to Neighbor in Greenwich to Operation Hope in Fairfield to the Monroe Food Pantry and Spooner House in Shelton -- are growing.
Mother Nature, the economy and the ability of utility companies to maintain power are perfect for what emergency food providers, like the Connecticut Food Bank and Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the country, call "food insecurity."
It means someone doesn't know where their next meal is coming from, and their access to three nutritious meals is questionable.
In Connecticut, 493,000 people or about 14 percent, are "food insecure," according to a 2012 study by Feeding America and the Connecticut Food Bank. It would take an infusion of $232 million to meet those people's needs. It sounds daunting, but it boils down to a mere $16 more per week.
Rodrigues, who survived Tropical Storm Irene mostly intact, now finds himself "food challenged."
Twenty miles away, Carla Miklos opens a refrigerator at the Operation Hope food pantry in Fairfield. Empty.
"This was packed with turkeys and some chickens," said Miklos, executive director of Operation Hope. "When we lost power, we lost everything."
Four other refrigerators and three freezers are barren; they had been stocked with milk, butter and eggs. All of those perishables spoiled, too.
Operation Hope put out a plea to local churches and synagogues to donate prepared meals. Miklos opens another freezer and the aroma of tomato bean soup wafts out.
"An area church prepared enough to feed 50 people," Miklos said. "We rely a lot on home-cooked prepared meals. And it was so disheartening to have to throw out all of what we had had donated.
"People had spent a lot of time making those meals," Miklos said. "But they had already spoiled or were well on their way to spoiling, and we couldn't take a chance. They had to go."
What Operation Hope would appreciate most from the community are hearty, home-cooked meals that can serve entire families. Other food pantries, like Monroe's, can use gift cards for supermarkets.
Miklos has seen a 20 percent increase in first-time clients approaching Operation Hope for groceries and nonperishable foods. She attributes the increase to Fairfield residents who have no food because they lost their electricity and didn't have generators to keep their refrigerated items cool. At least 200 families have been displaced by the storm, and Miklos believes that once they return home or find temporary housing, they may become Operation Hope clients, too.
Nancy Coughlin, the new executive director of Greenwich-based Neighbor to Neighbor food pantry, said the community has been generous in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
"We've had an overwhelming response," said Coughlin, who started in the position Oct. 1. "They'll just go to Costco and come on over."
The organization lost all of its meat after losing power for a few days after the storm. Barcelona restaurant donated a pallet full of meat on Wednesday. One day recently, the pantry, located at Christ Church Greenwich, put out a call that they needed bread and by the end of the day, the bread shelf was completely restocked.
Some people have contacted Neighbor to Neighbor about sending food donations to hard-hit neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey, and staff members have been connecting residents to organizations that can bring donations down. A representative from Brunswick School was at Neighbor to Neighbor Friday, filling a car with warm clothing to take to New York.
There has also been tremendous need in Greenwich. Hats and coats flew out of the clothing room before and after the recent snow storm, Coughlin said.
"Our clients lost everything the same way we did," Coughlin said. "We were lucky enough to replenish. ... We've been able to meet the need, which is great, but there's still a need."
Unlike Neighbor to Neighbor, Foodshare in Bloomfield never lost power. But if it had, it could have switched over to generators to power its 30,000 square-foot warehouse.
"We stored products for other food banks and shipped products to them," said Foodshare President Gloria McAdams. "We sent out two tractor-trailers, which contained 21,000 pounds of food."
Nevertheless, the best way for those to help feed the hungry in Connecticut, McAdams says, is to "donate money, not goods. That allows a food bank or pantry to buy what it knows it needs."
To appreciate how devastating Hurricane Sandy has been, consider its impact on the average person with a job who makes too much to qualify for any government assistance, but has barely any savings and not much left over after the mortgage, car insurance and work expenses are paid.
In 2011, the typical American household spent $47.50 per person each week for food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. But that's still a low-ball figure for estimating food loss. It doesn't factor in all the condiments that people keep on hand, items like barbecue sauce, mayonnaise and mustard.
Mary Ingarra, executive director of the Connecticut Food Bank in East Haven, which services a network of food pantries throughout the state, notes that her agency was founded with the idea that it was a temporary one.
"That was 30 years ago, and the need hasn't gone away," Ingarra said. "And we don't expect it to."