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In Home of First Thanksgiving, Fighting Food Insecurity

November 21, 2012

BOSTON - in the home of the first Thanksgiving, community groups and charities traditionally serve holiday dinners. But what about the rest of the year?

According to the Gallup organization, nearly 15 percent of Massachusetts residents were unable to afford food they or their families needed during 2011. Many of them benefit from SNAP, the federal food-stamp program. In Mattapan, Roselys - who didn't want her last name used - says SNAP is "a blessing."

"SNAP has made it a little easier to be able to keep food on the table every day. We do have family and friends around, and everyone shares what they have."

Pressure from would-be budget-balancers in Washington threatens to cut SNAP's benefits, according to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, which is hoping people pause on Thanksgiving to think about the need to let Congress and the president know how they feel about this part of the "safety net."

Roselys says she never thought she'd be in need of public assistance, but her husband is on Social Security, she cares for an ailing mother and her two grown children who have low-paying jobs live at home. She has recovered from a bad car accident as well.

"I'm thankful to still be able to move around and be alive, and just to know that this little extra help is there for me until things can improve is a blessing."

The institute helped ensure Roselys and her family got the SNAP benefits to which they were entitled. Pat Baker, senior policy analyst at the institute, says the goal is eliminating food insecurity and hunger.

"People need to eat year-round, not just on Thanksgiving Day. And they need access to benefits that will enable them to buy the food that is culturally and medically healthy for their families."

Baker adds that public opinion supports SNAP.

"There's been a number of surveys or polls that have been done showing a lot of public support for the food nutrition programs, SNAP in particular, and that any cuts to programs to food assistance for low-income families and seniors is the wrong way to reduce government spending."

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA