“Disturbing Trend” in Massachusetts Food Insecurity
BOSTON – Hunger persists across America, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it's on the rise in Massachusetts.
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 the Commonwealth are troubling to Pat Baker, senior policy advocate for the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.
"Where Massachusetts over the past decade has experienced a 5 percent increase in food insecurity, compared with a 3.9 percent increase in the national average,” she notes, “that is a disturbing trend."
She says the new figures make it more important than ever to safeguard anti-hunger programs like SNAP, or food stamps, and that means Congress should pass a Farm Bill that doesn't cut SNAP benefits.
But Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, says SNAP cuts are coming regardless of the Farm Bill – they will be dropping with the expiration of the stimulus spending from 2009.
"Benefits are going to go down on November 1st by $29 a month for a household of three,” he explains. “More than $300 a year, which is huge if you're living on 8, 10, 12, $14,000 a year."
Baker says the Commonwealth's congressional delegation has done its share in terms of protecting the nation's nutritional safety net.
"Massachusetts has been a leadership state in fighting against cuts to hunger programs and promoting adequate nutrition among all residents of the Commonwealth and the country,” she says. “And we expect that support and vigilance to continue."
Baker is still concerned that the Commonwealth will slip from its relatively respectable position.
"About 15 percent of Americans report food insecurity and Massachusetts is 11.4 percent,” she explains. “So we are below the national average overall, but the trend is disturbing."
According to the new data, more than 48.9 million Americans lived in households struggling against hunger in 2012.