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Hunger Persists in MA – Sequestration To Bite Harder?

Empty refrigerators plague Massachusetts as a new report shows 15 percent  or nearly 1 out of 6 Bay Staters  report not having had enough money to buy food that they or their family needed at some point in 2012. Photo courtesy Mark Scheerer
Empty refrigerators plague Massachusetts as a new report shows 15 percent or nearly 1 out of 6 Bay Staters report not having had enough money to buy food that they or their family needed at some point in 2012. Photo courtesy Mark Scheerer
February 28, 2013

BOSTON - Food hardship continues to plague Massachusetts. According to a new report, 15 percent of respondents - or nearly one out of six Bay Staters - said they did not have enough money to buy food they or their family needed at some point in 2012.

The report, by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), showed Massachusetts among the states with less dire food hardship rates. However, in places such as Worcester, the food hardship rate was just under 17 percent, and in Springfield, over 18 percent.

Georgia Katsoulomitis with Massachusetts Law Reform Institute said sequestration cuts in federal funds may bring still more hunger.

"For example, 8,300 families in Massachusetts, families with children, are going to lose WIC," she said. "It's a nutrition program that benefits low-income mothers with children."

The report said the nagging high rate of food hardship in 2012 is evidence of the lingering effects of the recession and the failure of Congress to respond with initiatives to boost jobs, wages and nutrition-support programs.

Even setting aside the possibility of sequestration cuts, Congress is tilting in the wrong direction on hunger, said Jim Weill with FRAC.

"The answer is we need more jobs at better wages," he said. "But we also need more adequate programs. In particular, we need to make food stamp benefits more adequate. Congress keeps pushing in the other direction and keeps threatening to cut food stamp benefits. That's just ridiculous."

Katsoulomitis said unless Congress focuses on resolving the budget and deficit issues in a responsible manner, more food hardship and insecurity are in store.

"The proposed cuts to WIC, to Elder Nutrition and to other programs that really stabilize low-income families is unconscionable," she said, "because they only serve to de-stabilize families that are already struggling."

FRAC will co-sponsor a National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., culminating on March 5 with a day of action on Capitol Hill, where attendees will address the issue with lawmakers.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA