We began this research in October 2019 in an effort to better understand how significant — or insignificant — a role systemic barriers, institutional racism, and discrimination played into a community’s experience of food insecurity. Despite being one of the wealthiest states in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, food insecurity and hunger and other economic hardships, including an inability to afford rent, utilities, child care, and health care have persisted in Massachusetts, disproportionately impacting communities of our state’s most marginalized residents. At the same time these data reveal a sense of confidence and strong relationships in the community. As we synthesize the findings of this study, it is impossible not to apply them to the intersecting ways in which the public health and economic climate have been so drastically impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has both illuminated and exacerbated pre-existing inequities faced by people of color, immigrant families, and those with fewer economic means. The hardships faced by these communities, including the Latinx community which we examine in this study, have only deepened as the crisis and its economic aftermath have unfolded.
As our state and nation look to address ongoing food insecurity, hunger, and other economic hardships — worsened in the wake of the pandemic — it is critical that the response be immediate and large-scale, but also informed by a critical equity approach. While this research was conducted prior to COVID-19, its findings are ever more important as food insecurity and unemployment skyrocket. This report aims to inform both short- and long-term responses to the circumstances gripping our nation, building on community strengths and providing an actionable roadmap for implementing necessary changes to policies, programs, and future research to ensure we meet the needs of every one of our state’s residents.
Our findings lay a critical foundation for further exploration to better identify community strengths and understand inequities in food insecurity and other economic hardships across the Commonwealth. The methods and ultimate recommendations of this project aim to chart a path for systemic change that mitigates bias rather than replicating it. We must recognize and uphold the right of economically- marginalized communities to have the resources they need to break down barriers and inform the best way to meet their own needs. We hope that these findings provide a guiding light to approach policy and systems change through a lens of both equity and action.
Erin McAleer, Project Bread, President Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, Children’s HealthWatch, Executive Director
This report demonstrates the ways in which racial and ethnic inequities drive adverse outcomes, including food insecurity and hunger in East Boston. Responding to the underlying causes of inequity will require structural changes across systems that recognize the ways in which institutions and policies interact in people's lives.
Promote systemic change that is responsive to historical racism and structural inequtiy
Strengthen federal nutrition progams
Address other hardships faced by food-insecure households, such as limited access to housing, child care, utilities, transportation, health care, and employment
Prioritize equity-based approaches in future research and data collections