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Creeping Up: Numbers of Hungriest in Massachusetts

Empty refrigerator.  Photo credit: Mark Scheerer
Empty refrigerator. Photo credit: Mark Scheerer
September 6, 2012

BOSTON - Hunger is on the rise across America, and new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that Massachusetts has more households with "low food security," meaning those in which people skip meals regularly or don't eat enough. Since 2006, the Bay State has seen an increase of more than 3.5 percent in households with food insecurity. However, the state is still in the upper ranks in terms of feeding the hungry, compared to others in the deep south, for example.

Pat Baker of the Mass Law Reform Institute says the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) plays a key role in feeding people.

"Any level of food hardship is really unacceptable, particularly in a state that's perceived to be as well off as Massachusetts."

The Food Research and Action Center simultaneously released new poll results showing 79 percent of respondents support spending more federal money or maintaining the same amount to address the problem of hunger, compared to only 17 percent who said the federal government should be spending less.

Baker says the prevailing sentiment in Massachusetts appears in favor of Congress keeping its hands off SNAP.

"Most recently, both Sens. Kerry and Brown, and our entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, opposed cuts to SNAP. We certainly hope that message will be taken to heart in Congress."

Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, says the new polling data suggests some of the people in Washington, D.C., who are calling for cutbacks in SNAP are out of touch with the people they represent.

"American families know what the food stamp program is and what it does. Sometimes the people who are attacking it, using false images of it, don't realize how many of their constituents are on the program."

Nationwide, the states with the highest food insecurity rates are Arkansas and Mississippi.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA