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One in Five Worcester Households Struggles to Find Food

A new (FRAC) report finds Worcester has jumped to the top third for cities where residents are struggling to put food on the table. Credit: Mike Clifford
A new (FRAC) report finds Worcester has jumped to the top third for cities where residents are struggling to put food on the table. Credit: Mike Clifford
April 9, 2015

BOSTON - A new report finds more families are struggling to find food in Worcester than in any other large metro area in the state. Patricia Baker, senior policy analyst with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, says Worcester saw a four percent jump in food hardship that now impacts one in five households. She says this is troubling because we are now on the far side of the recession, but Worcester's food insecurity has gone up and not down. It's now about two percent higher than the national average.

"Equally concerning to us is that Worcester's ranking of food hardship as a city is now 33rd out of 100 comparable cities in the United States," says Baker. "That is much deeper food hardship than we have seen in any area of Massachusetts in recent years. "

Statewide, the report from the Food Research and Action Center ranks Massachusetts 33rd out of the 50 states when it comes to food hardship.

Baker says the state's decision last year to shift to a new so-called business model has created major problems for tens of thousands who still are having trouble finding work because of the lingering effects of the recession; and now she says the system is shutting them out of important benefit programs that are intended to fight hunger.

"New phone systems that don't work, losing documents, and asking for verifications that aren't necessary," says Baker. "All of these changes have created significant access barriers - 45,000 households in Massachusetts have lost SNAP, eight percent of our caseload, and we feel that the Worcester area is suffering from those cuts as well."

Baker credits Congressman Jim McGovern with taking the lead in the state delegation in fighting to protect SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding in Congress.

Statewide in 2014 just under 15 percent of Commonwealth residents faced food hardship, that's about two percent better than the national average of 17.2 percent who struggle to find food.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA