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THE STATUS REPORT ON HUNGER IN MASSACHUSETTS

Each year, Project Bread releases a status report on hunger in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The 2014 Status Report on Hunger in Massachusetts
Working hard at low wages is like running up the down escalator. The best you can do is stay in place, and you’re always on the edge of slipping back. Today, post recession, more Massachusetts residents than ever—including many households with a least one working adult—are trying to balance in this precarious spot. Every day, at Project Bread, we talk with people who struggle to put food on the table. Our FoodSource Hotline counselors field a staggering 46,000 requests for help every year. More and more, we hear from working people—young and middle aged—who are earning an hourly wage that just doesn’t stretch across a month. They have some money, but they don’t have enough money. They’re not constantly facing hunger, but they can’t reliably predict when they won’t have enough money to feed their families.
Overview
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In 2003, almost everybody who was working forty hours a week in Massachusetts could expect to earn enough to cover the basics: food on the table and a roof overhead. Only those who were not working, the elderly, and those with chronic disabilities were the faces of hunger in our state.

But the Great Recession–and the attendant increase in income inequality–changed that. By 2014, a second and distinct population–low-wage workers–significantly added to the ranks of households that struggle to put food on the table. Today, the rate of household food insecurity is 71% higher than it was a decade ago, with no sign of improvement.

This report highlights their situation–and what Project Bread is doing to help.

Findings & Recommendations
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Findings:

  • There are 375,695 food insecure households in Massachusetts.
  • The food insecurity rate in Massachusetts has increased by 71% and it's stayed there.
  • 35% of children in low-income families have at least one parent who is employed full time, year-round. That's 144,546 children.
  • 38% of children in low-income families have at least one parent who is employed either part-year or part-time. That's 154,478 children.
  • The poverty rate in Massachusetts is the highest it’s been since 1960. The inflation-adjusted wages of the lowest-paid workers haven’t budged in decades. Income inequality in the state has become greater than in the nation as a whole.
  • A full-time worker should earn enough money to put food on the table. Public policies that promote a living wage for working people are a no-risk investment in the health and economic wellbeing for all of us in Massachusetts. But changing policies takes time—and people need practical help right now.

Here is what Project Bread has learned—and put into practice:

  • Help that is paired with respect is the most effective. So at Project Bread we craft programs that don’t stigmatize; programs that provide an opportunity to give back.
  • Having the right skills makes us more resilient. Project Bread works with families and teaches them how to cook healthy family meals that are quick to prepare and don't break the budget.
  • For low-wage workers who are paid by the hour, help that takes too much time comes as a cost to them. Healthy no-cost or low-cost breakfast and lunch served to children at school help enormously.
  • Emergencies happen and when a family needs it, an emergency food program can be a lifesaver—and Project Bread has been a long-term supporter of food pantries across the state. But emergency programs are a stopgap measure and not a long-term solution for a busy working parent.
  • There is no single path to eradicate hunger in our state. But if we stand up for paying low-wage workers enough to live on—and simultaneously support programs that that meet a diverse range of needs—we can shorten the lines at food pantries and work toward sustainable solutions.
Charts & Graphs
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