The following is an opinion piece from State Senator Katherine Clark:
“In the last twelve months, did any of the children ever skip a meal because there wasn’t enough money for food?”
This is just one in a series of questions that are used by USDA researchers to determine how many American families are facing hunger. And too often, the answer to this type of question is yes.
According to the most recent USDA report, released this month, nearly 15% of American families are confronting food insecurity, meaning they have had inconsistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. In Massachusetts the number is about 11.9%.
Those facing hunger are our neighbors, our friends, our seniors, and our co-workers: and far too many are children. September is National Hunger Action Month, a time to highlight their struggle and do our part to help.
The Greater Boston Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England, distributing nearly 35 million pounds of food last year and serving eastern Massachusetts, including our district. The GBFB continues to see an increase in the number of families seeking assistance. The state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) has seen an increasing caseload as well.
And many more households in Massachusetts who earn too much to qualify for assistance are still facing food insecurity. In the fiscal year 2013 budget, I was pleased to support an increase for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP), providing a total of $13,000,000. You can learn more about state food assistance programs at: www.mass.gov/snap.
Those in need truly depend on religious and community organizations, and we are fortunate to have many in our district. In Malden, Bread of Life is a volunteer organization that serves thousands, in collaboration with a network of religious and community partners. In 2011, Bread of Life provided 891,000 meals through grocery delivery to senior citizens, food delivery to homeless families sheltered in local motels, evening meals four nights per week, and food pantries for residents of Malden, Melrose, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester and Reading.
You can learn more about their efforts at www.thebreadoflifeonline.org. While you are there, you can register for the 20th Annual Bread of Life Walk for Bread, a 5K fun run and walk being held on September 30, 2012 at beautiful Pine Banks Park.
Many other organizations in our district actively serve those who are hungry. Hundreds of families in Melrose and surrounding communities are served by Melrose’s two food pantries: Pantry of Hope, which is run by the First Baptist Church; and A Servant’s Heart, based at the Faith Evangelical Church with support from St. Mary’s Church and many community members. The Stoneham Food Pantry at the First Congregational Church provides emergency food supplies to residents of Stoneham and surrounding towns. The Reading Food Pantry operates in collaboration with the Reading Clergy Association and is located at Old South United Methodist Church. EMARC, also in Reading, operates a food pantry for low income people with developmental disabilities. And the Wakefield Interfaith Food Pantry, a volunteer organization, is located in the Americal Civic Center. In addition, Gathering Change, a Lynnfield-based organization supports local food pantries and social programs in our communities and beyond.
Please consider reaching out to one of these service organizations to see how you can help, during Hunger Action Month and throughout the year. These organizations – and the thousands of families they serve – deserve our support.