As the economy in Massachusetts improves, the face of hunger changes. In the 2014 Status Report on Hunger, Massachusetts’ annual report card on hunger, Project Bread finds the rate of household food insecurity in the Commonwealth is 71% higher than it was a decade ago, with no signs of improvement. For those working at low-wage jobs, income has stagnated compared to high-wage earners. Today, the face of hunger in Massachusetts is often that of a working family.
Each year, Project Bread analyzes hunger in Massachusetts based on data provided by the federal government, through its annual household survey. This year, the survey found that more than 375,000 households in Massachusetts face food insecurity. Despite a falling rate of unemployment, a rise in productivity and retail sales steadily increasing, these working families still cannot confidently predict when their next meal is coming.
The numbers are stark. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, low-wage earnings have increased by only 1.2% since 1985 compared to an increase of 34.5% for high-wage earners. In Massachusetts, 73% of children in low-income families have at least one parent who is employed either part-time, part-year or full-time, year-round. Only 27% of children in low-income families do not have an employed parent. As a result of the failure of wages to keep up with the rising cost of living, people who are employed at low-wage jobs can no longer meet their basic needs.
“Ten years ago, almost everyone who was working full-time in Massachusetts could expect to earn enough to cover the basics – food on the table and a roof overhead,” said Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread. “Today, more and more we hear from working people who are earning an hourly wage that it just isn’t enough. They have some money but not enough to reliably predict when they can feed their families.”
The 2014 Status Report on Hunger shows that no matter how hard they work, thousands cannot work their way out of poverty and reliably protect themselves from hunger. Unpredictable hours and varying paychecks make it hard to budget and ensure that fresh, healthy food is on the table.
“Underlying the issue of hunger is really the issue of poverty,” continued Parker. “Until we can address the issue of a living wage for working people, we have to find long-term sustainable solutions that address food insecurity.”
To that end, Project Bread is working to create, facilitate and fund a diverse set of solutions that meet the needs of working people, offer help without stigma and ultimately, offer working families a hand–up, not a hand out.
These programs and initiatives include:
• Advocacy: Project Bread works with government leaders and advocates to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, universal access to healthy school meals and other federal programs.
• Education: The Chefs in Head Start, Chefs in Schools and other cooking programs teach parents, teenagers and school food providers how to cook healthy food on a budget.
• Access: The School Breakfast and Summer Food Service programs help ensure school children have access to as many healthy meals as possible throughout the full year.
• Fresh and Healthy: Community Supported Agriculture programs help people buy reduced-priced vegetable shares with their SNAP benefits.
• Assistance: Project Bread trains clinicians in more than 25 health centers across the state to identify people in need and offer the appropriate forms of assistance.
• Knowledge: The staff at the FoodSource Hotline connects people with the proper resources to best help their individual situations.
Click here to download the 2014 Status Report on Hunger.
About Project Bread
Project Bread is the only statewide anti-hunger organization committed to providing people of all ages, cultures, and walks of life with sustainable, reliable access to nutritious food. From community-based meal programs, to early childhood and school nutrition initiatives, to improved access to farm-to-table resources, Project Bread approaches hunger as a complex problem with multiple solutions. With funds raised through The Walk for Hunger, the oldest continual pledge walk in the country, and other sources, Project Bread pioneers innovative initiatives and supports effective programs to eradicate hunger in our state. For more information, visit www.projectbread.org, www.facebook.com/projectbread, or www.twitter.com/walkforhunger.