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.”