The 2013 Project Bread Status Report on Hunger, Massachusetts’ annual report card on hunger, finds more than 700,000 people in the state are struggling with food insecurity, despite many other economic indicators pointing toward recovery.
Each year, Project Bread analyzes hunger in Massachusetts based on data provided by the federal government, through its annual household survey. This year, the survey found 11.4 percent of all households in Massachusetts are still struggling with food insecurity. That means, despite productivity rising and retail sales steadily increasing, 700,000 adults and children across the state cannot confidently predict when their next meal is coming—a nearly 40 percent increase in food insecurity rates from before the recession began and almost an 80 percent increase from the start of the last decade.
The 2013 Project Bread Status Report on Hunger also reveals that more than 200,000 children in Massachusetts have a parent who makes less than $11 an hour. As a result of a stagnant minimum wage and a rising cost of living, people who are employed full-time at low-wage jobs can no longer meet their basic needs.
“The structure of our economy has fundamentally changed and the income gap in Massachusetts has become a chasm,” said Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread. “Statistics are an important tool to help us gauge the need in our state, but the experiences behind the numbers mean much more.”
To that end, the 2013 Project Bread Status Report on Hunger also focuses on some of the many stories behind the statistics, highlighting the unique struggles various people are facing around Massachusetts and the different options available to help them get fresh, healthy food more regularly.
“You can call it food insecurity; I say it’s too much month and too little money,” said one man at one of Project Bread’s funded community meals programs who was trained as a manufacturing technician, but has been forced to take a low-wage job because of the lack of availability of jobs in industry. “After the first time it bit me,” he added, “I always feared it would get me again. And it did.”
Project Bread has consistently found that the most effective way to overcome hunger is to offer a wide-ranging set of possible solutions. When properly woven together for each individual case, these different forms of support can stabilize the lives of low-income individuals and families and ultimately strengthen the communities in which they live.
Based on years of research and practice, Project Bread has found effective solutions begin with understanding what hungry people need:
- They need to be seen as a diverse group with different situations and experiences, requiring different solutions.
- They need access to skills and information to budget effectively and stretch their food dollars.
- They need convenient and predictable support to maintain their capacity to feed their families.
- They need to receive food assistance in ways that preserve their dignity.
Project Bread is responding to these needs through several programs and initiatives. Among them:
- Project Bread works with government leaders and advocates to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, universal access to healthy school meals and other federal programs.
- The Chefs in Head Start, Chefs in Schools and other cooking programs teach parents, teenagers and school food providers how to cook healthy food on a budget.
- The School Breakfast and Summer Food Service programs help ensure school children have access to as many healthy meals as possible throughout the full year.
- Community Supported Agriculture programs help people buy reduced-priced vegetable shares with their SNAP benefits.
- Project Bread trains clinicians in more than 25 health centers across the state to identify people in need and offer appropriate forms of assistance.
- The knowledgeable staff at the FoodSource Hotline connects people with proper resources to best help their individual situations.
- Submitted by Project Bread