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Hunger in Maine - Staying the Same

GRAPHIC: Hunger persists across America, according to new data from the USDA, and remains a stubborn problem in Maine. Courtesy National Institutes of Health
GRAPHIC: Hunger persists across America, according to new data from the USDA, and remains a stubborn problem in Maine. Courtesy National Institutes of Health
September 9, 2013

AUBURN, Maine - Hunger persists across America, according to new data from the USDA, and it remains a stubborn problem in Maine. The percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure - meaning those in which people skip meals regularly or don't eat enough - remained essentially unchanged from 2011 to 2012. The figures for Maine are similarly stabilizing but nonetheless troubling to Clara McConnell Whitney of the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

"We're still looking at about 15 percent of Maine households that are considered food insecure, so that tells us that families are still really struggling," McConnell Whitney said.

On the positive side, she said, the leveling of the numbers indicates the safety net is working. In that she includes the work of the Food Bank as well as SNAP, the federal food stamp program, which she said must not be cut.

Jim Weill of the Food Research and Action Center said SNAP cuts are coming regardless of the outcome of the Farm Bill being considered in Congress. They will be dropping with the expiration of the stimulus spending from 2009.

"Benefits are going to go down on November first by $29 a month for a household of three," Weill said. "That's more than $300 a year, which is huge if you're living on $8,000, $10,000, $12,000, $14,000 a year."

The Good Shepherd Food Bank works with some 600 local partners in all 16 Maine counties to meet the nutritional needs of seniors and people who are disabled or whose budgets are stretched thin. McConnell Whitney said food stamps are critical.

"At the Food Bank, we feel like the SNAP program is incredibly important for Maine families, and we know that that's just a huge assistance for families that are struggling to afford enough food," McConnell Whitney added.

According to the new data, in 2012 more than 48.9 million Americans lived in a household struggling against hunger.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME