1 in 3 households in Massachusetts suffer from hunger

More and more people in Massachusetts are struggling to afford enough to eat. More than 33 percent of households in the state were food insecure in 2023, according to a new study by the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) and Mass General Brigham.

“That's 33 percent of our neighbors, our families, the people who live in our state who are in need,” said Catherine D'Amato, president and CEO of GBFB.

This is the fourth year GBFB has conducted the study. Although this year's study showed a slight increase from 2022, D'Amato said the overall percentage of Massachusetts residents experiencing food insecurity remained the same. For the first time, the study looked at college students and found that more than 40 percent reported food insecurity.

“COVID is over. Hunger is not over,” D'Amato said.

Food insecurity occurs when people do not have access to safe and nutritious food. High inflation and rising food prices are the main causes of food insecurity in Massachusetts.

Although hunger exists throughout the state, Western Massachusetts and the Boston area are most affected by food insecurity. Boston is one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.

A new report from the Greater Boston Food Bank found that food insecurity is highest in Western Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area.

Courtesy of Greater Boston Food Bank

“Food insecurity, wages and economic mobility are all closely related when it comes to whether someone can afford to live in a certain place, pay a certain rent or go shopping,” D'Amato said. More and more people are relying on programs like SNAP and food pantries. But these are not enough to solve the problem.

Families surveyed by GBFB reported that an additional $2,000 per year would provide their family with enough to eat.

Dr. Lauren Fiechtner, a pediatrician and researcher at Mass General Hospital for Children and senior health and research advisor at the Greater Boston Food Bank, said the report found racial disparities.

The study found that food insecurity is high among Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Hispanics and Black people in Massachusetts, and people who identify as LGBTQ+.

“This is largely due to systematic discrimination and socioeconomic opportunities that lead to the inequalities we see in food insecurity,” Fiechtner said.

About 74 percent of children rely on school programs, such as free school meals, to meet their nutritional needs. With summer approaching, D'Amato said there will be even more children in need of food assistance. She pointed to the Growing Healthy Futures program, which raises money during the summer to ensure children have something to eat during school holidays.

D'Amato said this is a problem Massachusetts can solve.

“You can solve the problem with sustainable policies that support families, by paying attention to wages and ensuring that workers have sufficient resources to be productive and contribute, whether with money, time or commitment.”

Anna Harden

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