Tag Archives: elderly

Jim parked in A.I! … Congressman McGovern Calls for Action to Solve Senior Hunger


5 Million American Seniors Struggle with Hunger

Many Forced to Choose Between Paying for Prescriptions and Having Enough to Eat

Photo by Chef Joey
Congressman Jim McGovern, a senior House Democrat and leading voice in the fight against hunger, spoke on the House Floor today to recognize Older Americans Month and to help raise awareness about senior hunger and the ways we can better address it.
Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Speech, as prepared for delivery:

“As we celebrate the contributions of our seniors during Older Americans Month this month, I rise to draw attention to an issue that often goes overlooked in our communities – the terrible problem of hunger among aging adults. 
“Food insecurity among seniors has doubled since 2001 and is expected to increase significantly as the Baby Boomer generation ages. 
“Today, food insecurity impacts five million seniors across the country, forcing them to make impossible decisions between food, medical care, home heating, and other necessities.
“We know that hunger is a health issue, and that is especially true among seniors over the age of 60.

Photo by Chef Joey
“Research from Feeding America suggests that compared to their food secure neighbors, seniors suffering from hunger are 60 percent more likely to experience depression, 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack, 52 percent more likely to develop asthma, and 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure.
“Baby Boomers spend twice as much on health care as young adults do, and ensuring seniors have access to nutritious food will help to improve the health of our seniors and ultimately reduce medical costs.     
“We also know that seniors have unique nutritional needs, and I’m pleased to see scientists collaborating to create nutritional guidance for seniors. 
“Researchers at the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, with support from the AARP Foundation, recently unveiled an updated MyPlate for Older Adults graphic to help seniors visualize what foods cover the nutritional needs that make up a healthy plate for adults their age.  The new icon also encourages them to follow healthy eating patterns. 
“I was pleased to join scientists from Tufts, as well as representatives of AARP, last week at a briefing on Capitol Hill to unveil the new MyPlate icon and educate Congressional staff on the importance of senior nutrition.
“But if we want to ensure seniors have access to nutritious foods, we must also ensure they have the ability to afford fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options.
“One critical step we can take toward the goal of ending senior hunger is closing what’s referred to as the ‘senior SNAP gap.’ 
“While millions of our parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends are facing hunger, only a fraction of low-income seniors eligible for food assistance through SNAP are accessing the benefits, presumably because of the stigma associated with assistance or because seniors are unaware they qualify for benefits.
“Many seniors also suffer from limited mobility, or may have issues completing benefit applications which can be complex and time consuming.
“In fact, seniors are more likely than any other age group to be eligible for SNAP but not enrolled to receive benefits.

Photo: R.T.
“That’s why I’m pleased to see so many advocacy organizations using Older Americans Month to call attention to the issue of senior hunger.
“Through their #SolveSeniorHunger campaign, Feeding America and other anti-hunger and aging organizations across the country are reaching out to seniors and their loved ones to raise awareness and ensure that those seniors who are eligible to receive SNAP benefits are connected to the appropriate resources.
“We should all do our part to help solve senior hunger by talking to our family members and friends about senior hunger and partnering with leaders in our communities working to improve access to nutritious food for senior populations.
“During my years in Congress, I have had the opportunity to visit food banks and other organizations in my district working to end hunger among seniors.   
“Last year, I had the privilege of spending a day with a Meals on Wheels program based in Northampton, Massachusetts – part of my Congressional district.  I helped to prepare and deliver meals, and had the opportunity to speak with the seniors who are served through this incredible program. 
“Members of Congress have an important role in ensuring that our nation’s seniors don’t go hungry, and I encourage all of my colleagues to spend time with similar programs in their districts. 
“Congress must adequately fund programs like Meals on Wheels that provide nutritious food to seniors, and reject harmful cuts to SNAP that will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable among us – children, seniors and the disabled. 
“Working together, we have the power to end hunger now, especially among our senior population.” 

A win for home-health aides, PCAs and CNAs

BOSTON – Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne F. Goldstein today released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Labor’s ruling to extend the Fair Labor Standard Act’s minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities.

“As Massachusetts leads the nation in providing quality and affordable health care to its residents, we have also served as a leader to ensure all home care workers have wage protection in their jobs.  Today, the U.S. Department of Labor extended similar coverage to direct care workers in all states.  The home care industry has grown exponentially over the years, with a large segment of our population increasingly in need of these vital services.  Today’s wage and hour laws should value the labor of the industry’s dedicated workers who care for patients, including the elderly and disabled, at home.  I applaud the Obama Administration for supporting these workers.”



One in 10 adults and children suffer from asthma in Mass.

By Barbara Kwetz Allan

I look out my kitchen window and see another glorious, crystal-clear day in Massachusetts, yet I know from my professional life that unseen, microscopic particles of air pollution are wreaking havoc on so many with respiratory ailments and heart conditions. Most of us walk through our daily lives unaware of the price our most vulnerable – children, elderly, and others with compromised health – are paying, as air pollution irritates lung airways and infiltrates bloodstreams.

This point is not lost on my friend whose son suffers with asthma. “Most people don’t know that pollution can aggravate asthma,” she said. Having rushed her son unable to breathe to the emergency room more than once, my friend is hyperaware of the need to reduce the things that exacerbate his asthma. She does what she can around their house to limit asthma triggers, but feels helpless when she lets him walk outside.

On December 14, my friend’s son and others with chronic diseases may get some relief if the Obama Administration chooses to support stronger limits on particle pollution, commonly called soot. These limits, called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, ensure that everyone in the nation is protected based on the most current public health science.

The present standard, set in 1997, no longer reflects what the most current science shows to be protective of public health. In fact, many are living under the false sense of security that the air is safe to breathe when it is not. Hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed that millions of asthma attacks, as well as heart attacks, strokes, and even deaths, could be prevented every year if the standard were strengthened.

The black smoke that spews out of smokestacks, chimneys, and from the tailpipes of countless vehicles contains billions of particles of soot. The body reacts to soot in much the same way it does cigarette smoke. These microscopic particles are easily inhaled and inflame not only the lungs, but all of the body’s essential life systems. In fact, breathing soot has been compared to taking a piece of sandpaper and rubbing it against the tissue of the lungs.

The 2011 Sick of Soot report, which the American Lung Association coauthored, concluded that adopting an annual standard of 11 μg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 μg/m3 would provide the most health benefits. Most notably, these more protective standards would prevent as many as 35,700 deaths from occurring annually as a direct result of breathing in soot -almost enough lives saved to fill every seat in historic Fenway Park.

Massachusetts has the unfortunate bragging rights of having asthma rates that are among the highest in the nation, with approximately with the disease. Unfortunately, children suffer most, as their lungs do not fully develop until they reach early adulthood. Early exposure to particle pollution during this critical development period can hinder lungs from maturing properly and cause respiratory problems that children will carry with them for a lifetime.

Asthma is a common chronic condition in children and is a leading cause of emergency room visits and missed school days in Massachusetts. Although the human suffering associated with asthma is great, so is the cost to our wallets. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, total charges for asthma hospitalizations in Massachusetts in 2010 were $113 million – a 126 percent increase since 2000. Taxpayers are expected to pay 66 percent of those costs.

It is a shame that we live in a state that prides itself on being a leader in the health, environmental, and renewable energy fields, yet our residents are suffering at the mercy of a national pollution standard that is outdated and does not provide adequate public health protection.

For the sake of children like my friend’s son and many others who suffer with asthma or compromised health, President Obama must ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopts the most protective soot standard possible. Anything less places the health of current and future generations at risk.

Barbara Kwetz Allan is a board member of the American Lung Association in Massachusetts.

The “nursing” home

By Rosalie Tirella

“I think she was sick before she got here,” the nurse at the rehab/nursing home (Holy Trinity on Barber Ave.) told me.

I had just left my mom’s room and walked to the nurse’s station at the end of the corridor to voice my concerns to the gaggle of nurses in charge of the care of a couple of dozen “patients” stricken with mild to moderate demetia – including my mom who is also there for “rehab” after a fall in her studio apartment. I am alarmed because I have never seen my mom so ill, so stuck in illness, a tube carrying oxygen to her lungs stuck up her nose, her arm bruised from the poking of IV needles. There she is, in her half of her “new” room (nice roommate) sitting alone in her wheelchair, her head bent forward, snoozing quietly.

When I visit my mom (almost every day), she seems awefully sleepy. Today, when I first entered her room, she was asleep again – totally alone, her head hanging forward again – how uncomfortable! How I missed her old pale pink wingback chair that she parked her little butt in for years as she watched cable news, catholic mass and the Red Sox. You are always in a wheel chair! I told her last time I visited. She said: It’s so comfortable, it doesn’t even feel like I am in a wheel chair.

I did some inspecting and, yes, there was lots of foam, a pillow behind her back, etc. “She’s languishing!” I screamed inside my head. I told myself: This is what people told me would happen if I stuck my mom in a nursing home.

There would be no recovery – only the slow (or speedy) descent into … death.

Where is her comfy wing back chair?!

“Ma,” do you want me to buy you a cute little easy chair for the window?” I ask her one time.

“No, no. I like this.”

“She’s always bounced back,” I tell the nursing home nurse, trying not to show my alarm. I should know! I was her primary care giver for more than four years. Every time she fell in her studio apartment, I sprang into action and rescued her! Saved my mom from the jaws of death. I was always PRESENT, following the ambulance that took her to Memorial Hospital, confering with the doctors/interns (kids) there, being nice to a passel of nurses and social workers, being nasty, threatening with a column when people seemed unresponsive – whatever it took to make my mother well again! I was the miracle lady! And my mom – 85 – always returned home! To her cat, her rosaries, her prayers, her little kitchen and coffee maker.

I don’t want to piss these nurses off, get off to a bad start with them, I tell myself. This could be a permanent thing. They take care of my mother. Her life is in their hands. I want to make them love her one one hundredth as much as I do!

Maybe then, my mom can get well! Well, enough to enjoy a few fruitful, comfortable years at this nursing home, where friends and family can visit and she can be safe. She gets three hot, square meals a day. She has all kinds of nice people taking her blood pressure, taking her temperature, combing her hair, putting her to bed. A time to be nurtured, even spoiled .. like a little baby. My old mother has come full circle.

I am now resigned to the fact that she can never return home. I have the heartbreaking task of closing up her apartment.

I smile at the nurse sitting at the nurse’s station, a lady in her sixties who does seem kind and does seem to like and care about my mom. I tell “Mary” that my mom has had pneumonia before and that several days of intravenous antibiotics usually knoocks out the infection in her lung.

“But we had to give her [oral anibiotics]… so that they would work on the infection on her leg,” Mary explained to me, looking a tad annoyed that me – a mere lay person – has the temerity to stick her nose where it doesn’t belong – in the MEDICAL PROFESSION.

Quiet please! MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AT WORK! Mary told me she also gave her 50 milligrams of tresedone at night, to calm her down. And mymom gets some during the day. “She gets too busy,” Mary tells me. I am a little worried. My mom has never been sedated like this, and it seems nurse Mary has called the shots. The doctor of this nursing home hasn’t examined my mom. It looks like he rubberstamps what nurse Mary prescribes.

At one nursing home I worked at as an activities assistant decades ago, some nurses there were incredible – most were pretty average. There was even a dud or two – take the head nurse of the dementia unit there. She was always so solicitous of patients when their families were visiting, and then when they left, she would make fun of the patients … or sometimes take her shoes off and paint her toenails!

I can’t help it. My mom, old people have gotten under my skin. Even though I didn’t live with my mom, I took care of her – got her on the Meals on Wheels/lunch bag program, got her home health aides, personal care attendants. I was there every few days checking on her, making shopping lists, bringing in cleaning supplies or toiletries, keeping tabs on everything – the entire freakin’ operation. That’s what it became at the end – a freakin’, time-sucking operation. Exhausting!! – loving my mom! But she had loved me all these years, I told myself, and now foggy-brained and incapable of keeping up her own place, she needed her eldest daughter to swoop in an SAVE THE DAY. She has always expected it – and I have never disappointed her.

I won’t fail ya now, Ma! I tell myself as I watch her … letting go.

So, I want to tell Mary the nurse, I know a little bit about keeping my mom happy and healthy. For you to tell me “she came in sick” is BULL SHIT. Utter buck-passing. I am no fool. I tell her I want a doctor to check my mom and that i will make a special appointment with a gerontologist – a doc who specializes in old people! – to make sure she is on the right meds. Mary frowns. She says he may not even be allowed on the premises, since he is not the doctor in charge at the nursing home – Holy Trinity. I am taken aback. I tell her: I want my mom seen by this excellent gerontologist. “Mary” says he has to be cleared – to make sure he has the right credentials. I want to say: You mean like you, bitch? A nurse PLAYING doctor for my mom and all the other demential patients here? (most of whom look drugged out, as they have their chairs parked around “Mary’s” nurses station – quiet, drugged up little babies. No problem at all caring for such quiet, subdued seniors.

I want to rush into my mom’s room, grab my mom in her wheel chair and roll her out of this place – forever!

But my hands are tied. What can I do? I cannot unhook my little mother from her metal, ugly oxygen tank. I cannot drive her to the hospital and demand the docs “make things happen.” Been there – done that – four times! And Ma can’t go home because THE STATE of MASSACHUSETTS HAS CUT HER SERVICES/MEALS thanks to Elder Services of Worcester, whose nurses/social workers tell me she will be much better cared for at a nursing home. … this nursing home, Holy Trinity, where I can see her looking bloated, drugged up, attached to tubes, arms black and blue …. .

And yet Mom is quietly happy. She tells me the people at the home are so nice, everyone is so gentle with her, they take such good care of her, the food is excellent, they always bring her her coffee. She likes her roommate, too. And she he seems … happy. It’s as if the attention and all the nursing staff and activities staff coming and going is llike a tonic to her. A people person her whole life, my mother now, through her anxiety and tiredness, stresses she doesn’t want to go back to Illyrian Gardens, a place now filled with tight ass staff, a senior citizens complex now run by people who don’t even like senior citizens. I always knew this. My mom did, too, but she repressed her true feeling because she so loved living in her little studio apartment.

Now she calls a spade a spade. She says: “I wasn’t happy there [Illyrian Gardens] – the people … ” and she makes a face. “They [director and staff] were snobs!”

She used the word “snob,” but what my mom meant was that: the staff at Illyrian Garden never cared about her, never stopped by her apartment to say hello or wish her well. No smiles, no pats on the shoulders. Definitely no hugs.

Here at this new place, a nurse told me: “You mother is so nice – we all love her.”

She seemed sincere. I chose to believe her.

Still, the medical care seems substandard.

I have to leave now. I walk back to my mom’s room. “Ma,” I say to her, “I have to go.” I grab her hand off the utility table where she has a plastic cup filled with coffee waiting for her (I will bring her her super duper official huge Red Sox mug tomorrow!). My mom’s little bed side table is covered with the prayer books and photos and perfume bottle I brought for her from her apartment. I notice how warm her hand is. A fever perhaps from the infection in her lung (pneumonia) and in her leg (the bruise from her fall is not healing fast enough). I cannot believe her hand has gotten so gray, so veiny, so bony. Still, I love the warmth I am getting from her. I am loosely holding my mother’s hand in mine. I want to hold it forever.

Tales from Mommy Land, Part 1

By Rosalie Tirella

Who knew that my mom would become such a project in her old age? Who knew that when her dementia began 4 and 1/2 years ago it would take a near genius/faker/pit-bull of a daughter (me) to keep her (a little 85-year-old Polish lady with sad, tired eyes) in her little studio apartment at Illyrian gardens? A place where for 16 years she lived in cozy bliss with her cat and cable TV tuned 24/7 to Red Sox games and the Catholic Mass channel? A place she loved and then grew afraid of not so much because of the onset of her dementia but because of the firing of the super Illyrian Gardens staff and a behind the scenes coup that left her and the 60 or so other seniors at this high rise complex with a new (insensitive!) IG executive director, social services coordinator and janitor.

So … out with the cool, fun events that the old I.G. staff provided: the annual summer cookouts (the new staff even ripped out the lovely big grill and benches in the grassy area out back – home to many a cook out under the old IC regime), monthly breakfast buffets, visits from the heriff’s office and their amazing German Shepherd Dogs, Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners (catered by a great local restaurant), parties, visits from local dulcet-toned pols, a caring social serivce coordinator, weekly movie nights with popcorn, exercise days, yoga days, a wheel chair in each activty room for folks who were coming back from brief stays in hospitals … .ths list went on. Now, gone.

Also, (the biggest disappointment for my mom) pets were banned – even cats and teeny chihuahuas. Not one snuggly animal allowed in Illyrain Gardens anyore – for residents or their visitors – even my fab Husky mix Jett. My mom – at 84 – was threatened with eviction by Executive Director Mark Doku if I brought Jett up to her room to visit. She grew pale when I showed her the two-inch thick envelope filled with legal briefs/forms from IG’s lawyers. She grew afraid of Mark Doku and what he would do next to her and her the people and animals she loved.

I got it. After all, who takes a crippled old lady to Worcester Housing Court after she’s lived in a place for almost two decades and is clearly growing more frail by the month? Who kicks the walker out from a senior hobbling to her TV set to take a closer look at a Red Sox instant replay?

Assholes, that’s who.

Once, I brought my mom back to Illyrian Gardens from a brief stay at the hospital (she had fallen). When I entered his office to ask him about the wheel chair (none), Doku said, his face grim, “Well, if she’s back, she’s back.”

Later I asked him: Why are you here, you don’t even seem to like old people? You are supposed to be a man of God (he was a deacon in the church that owned Illyrian Gardens – St. Mary’s Albanian Orthodox Church on Salisbury Street).

He replied: What does that have to do with my running Illyrain Gardens?


This past year, I began to put a bug in her ear: “Ma, you’re really not happy in this place anymore. Things have changed. Mark’s an asshole. They’re all jerks. You may like living in a nice facility.”

I didn’t use the words “nursing home,” and my mom was kinda fuzzy on what “facility” meant. In this way, we were able to talk about her future without really getting too specific.

She always replied: This is my home.

I told myself, Illyrian Gardens was no longer “home” – it was making my mom sicker – more isolated than if the old IG crew, headed by Peter Harrotian, still ran the complex. Peter would still have alll the fun stuff going and Sandie, the services corrdinator, would be running to my mom’s room encouraging her to atttend events – or bringing her treats and meals from celebrations that my mom wasn’t up to attending. (She had already been doing this for Mum a year or so before the changes.)

“Ma,” I would say to my mother, “you don’t go out in the hall to walk around or visit Nickie (her pal). You seem lonely.”

I was thinking: Mom’s dementia may “slow down” if she is placed in a good nursing home run by and filled with caring people/professionals.

So when she took a header a month or so ago as she leaned against one of her chairs, things took a different turn than from the four previous times she took a tumble. She didn’t go to Memorial Hospital, a rehab hospital and then back home. The ambulance took her to Memorial Hospital, a rehab hospital and then (a few weeks later) an ambulance/van took her to another (sub-acute) rehab hospital with a nursing home unit attached.

So here I am, with prodding from the state of Massachusetts, which cut her Meals on Wheels, homemaker and personal care attendant services to force Mom out of her apartment into a “long-term care facility” – for her own good – puttng her in a home. Elder Services always knew I brought mom to her little apartment and they provided support services, but with a new nurse on board, she decided to cancel mom’s services – so she would be forced to go into a facility – and her recommendation would match the rehab doctors. It had never matched before. This Elder Services nurse was just being a good bureaucrat – keeping her job by rubber stamping what Fairlawn’s rehab doctors had recommended. Nothing more. Nothing less.

So here I am … breaking up the last apartment my mother will have “run.” It’s hearbreaking taking apart my mom’s personal touches, routine, memorabilia – her digs, the last place in which she made her bed (too frail/confused to do so now), made her fab homemade chicken soup (I can still see her filling the big pot with water at the sink and with a big heave-ho, lugging it to the stove), jotted down shopping lists (her handwriting not very cursive (more right angles than girly curves), folded her laundry (two loads every week, always washed in her trusty TIDE), coached and counseled her three daughters over the phone, payed her bills (sitting at the kitchen table looking grim), gossiped with her favorite sister (dead 7 years – still missed).

What to save? What to discard? What to give away?

All the rosaries she collected over the years. Pretty ones given to her for Christmas by family. Pink plastic ones in chinsy vinyl cases with “MY ROSARY” printed on the flap – in “gold.” I take the chinsy pink plastic rosary and send the others to my sister because I know that my mom got the pink one as a thank-you gift from one of the many religious missionary folks she would send $5 or $10 to – sometimes every month. To support their work with poor or homeless kids. In the old days she would sit down and read with keen interest the letters she got from the nuns or priests who ran the places – often in New York City or some developing country. She would proudly show the notes to me – all copies, not originals. Still they mattered to her.

Should I pitch the tags? The dog tags from all my – our – pooches. Grace, Bailey, now Jett? My mom has known and loved them all. She was/is a people and PET person! When she was in her 20s and living with her sisters in Springfield they had two huge Doberman Pinschers – and fed many stray cats. I love the old sepia toned photos of my lovely mother from those World War II days, with dark hair long and sometimes adorned with an orchid artistically placed in her hair right above her ear (a la Billie Holiday). There she is, sitting in the grass, in front of the home they lived in, a big, elegant Dobbie, “Rocky” lying by her side, his long paw resting in her lap. And she is holding his paw.

All the cups, some cracked. should I dump them? The coffee mugs for my mom – a caffeine addict, if ever there was one. She drank coffee 24/7 for about 65 years. First as a working girl, then as a harried single-working mom, then as a TV watching retiree, cat in lap, Red Sox coffee mug on the end table by her easy chair. When she was in her 70s, it was not unusual to get a call from Mom around 11 p.m., her voice cracked and strained: Rosalie, my coffee maker died. get me another one tomorrow. Tomorrow.

And so I did, thank you Building 19, Grafton Street. I had to – Ma would go through withdrawal without her java. Finally, it got so bad, with the late night callls (she ran those machines like a greasy spoon would), I bought “back up.” Extra coffee makers, so that when one Mister Coffee gave out, Mom just had to reach behind it for the brandy new one I had bought and unpacked for her months ago. When she became more frail, began losing the self I loved so dearly, she couldn’t handle the coffee filters and the size of her coffee maker. So I got her three or so mini coffemakers – little carafes attached to little drip devices that didn’t need coffee filters. And she could make herself one cup of coffee. That was all the water the glass carafe would hold. The coffee wasn’t as good as when she made it with a full-size coffee maker but, hell, it wasn’t instant! Which of course, is where our story ends. These past few years, I ended up buying and making for her (along with all her help/nursing aides) INSTANT COFFEEE – anethema to Mom in the 1960s, 70, 80, 90 and 21’st century. There the plastic jar sits – on her wisp of a kitchen counter in front of the mini-coffee maker I retired three years ago. Maxwell House Instant Coffee – with its easy-to-grip foam-rubber lid. Did I dump it? Nope. I took the jar – and just to make sure I wouldn’t misplace it, stuck it in my pocketbook.

The last jar of mama’s java. Not to be drunk, just to be placed in my fridge.



By Mary K. Moule

As the outside temperature rose in late May, the temperature in several of our Senior Citizen apartment complexes in Worcester reached 90+ degrees. Yes, ninety-plus degrees! Our building is recently-built, has central air conditioning, and individual controls in each apartment. We tenants are between 62 and 90+ years of age. It was unbearably hot, and, clearly unhealthy!

When I asked “management” to turn on the central air conditioning I was told that state law “requires apartment building owners to provide heat from September 15 to June 15 of each year”.

Thus, “management” said, “when it is unusually hot during this time frame, it is beyond our control to switch from heat to air conditioning”.

Within hours of learning of our stifling situation, Councilwoman Barbara Haller brought our plight to the attention of the entire City Council at its May 31, 2011 meeting. As a result of her action, supported by the entire Council, a City Inspector promptly inspected our units, and directed that the air conditioning be turned on.

Barbara Haller is aware that the law which requires heat during certain dates also has a waiver clause, which permits apartment owners/managers to gain permission to shut the heat and turn on the air conditioning, “when it is unusually hot” before June 15th.

Thank you, Councilwoman Barbara Haller, for acting swiftly and effectively on behalf of your then-sweltering, senior constituents.


Massachusetts Poverty Law Organization Urges Congress to Protect Federal Nutrition Programs during Deficit Negotiations

Boston – One in 9 households in Massachusetts struggled with hunger on average in the years 2008-2010, according to new data released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its annual report on food insecurity. Nationally, more than 48.8 million people lived in households that were food insecure in 2010.

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) pointed out that there has been a been a 35 percent increase in hunger in Massachusetts during the three years covering the heart of the recession compared to the three previous years. The increase demonstrates the downturn’s depth and impact on Massachusetts.

Among the 10.8 percent of households in Massachusetts considered to be food insecure during the 2008-2010 period, 4.5 percent were considered to have “very low food security.” People in this USDA category had more severe problems, experiencing deeper hunger and cutting back or skipping meals on a more frequent basis for both adults and children.

“We continue to see evidence of the struggles facing too many people in the Commonwealth. Congress must protect the federal nutrition programs and other parts of our nation’s safety net against deficit cutting measures,” said Patricia Baker, Senior Policy Analyst at MLRI. “Weakening these programs would cause irreparable harm to low-income people in Massachusetts and across the nation.”

The Massachusetts SNAP caseload has doubled since July of 2008, now serving over 450,000 households (representing over 833,000 individuals as of July 2011) – the majority of whom are low-income elders, persons with disabilities disabled and families with children. Food pantries and soup kitchens report significant growth in persons seeking emergency food, unable to make ends meet.

“Millions of Americans, including many in Massachusetts, continue to struggle to put food on the table. It is time to strengthen, not weaken the nation’s safety net,” said Ms. Baker. “There’s a reason that every bipartisan deficit reduction plan proposed over the past year – including those from Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Gang of Six – has made sure to keep nutrition programs intact and protected from cuts–and that’s because these programs are critical to the health and well-being of America’s children and families.”

Worcester County Food Pantry: feeding Worcester since 1982

By Jean McMurray, executive director, Worcester County Food Bank, with Liz Sheehan Castro, project manager, Hunger-Free & Healthy

As the door opened into the third floor apartment, the woman’s smile along with the warmth of her kitchen greeted me. I introduced myself and handed her a carefully covered meal while wishing her a Happy Thanksgiving. Before I turned to go back down the three flights of stairs I had just climbed, she offered me a Kennedy half-dollar as a tip in gratitude for the Thanksgiving dinner I had brought her. I declined the tip and thanked her explaining that I was a volunteer delivering meals for Catholic Charities. As I started down the back stairs, I felt relief knowing that this elder woman had a warm home, food, and people that cared about her.

She was one of the dozen or so people I would meet throughout the morning as I traveled city streets and neighborhoods delivering meals. Hours later as I sat down to enjoy a Thanksgiving Day dinner with my own family, the experience came with heightened awareness and appreciation for what I had as well as for the people I met who were enjoying their dinners and for those who cooked the wonderful meals and organized the volunteers. Continue reading Worcester County Food Pantry: feeding Worcester since 1982