Get the Facts

The latest data on food insecurity in Massachusetts

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Understanding the issue

In support of our mission to end hunger in Massachusetts, we use internal and external data to inform our direct service programs and to make evidence-based policy recommendations.

We believe scientific evidence is critical in promoting equity and so we prioritize providing inclusive and accurate statistics. Our research and analyses is based on our efforts to ensure that we are using the highest quality data available. 

Food insecurity doubled during the pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, household food insecurity in Massachusetts was at 8.2%. The coronavirus pandemic fueled a hunger crisis unlike any other in our lifetime, at it's peak rendering 19.6% of households food insecure. Food insecurity is on the decrease, but a return to pre-pandemic rates is not an option.

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Overall Trend

As the state reopens, household food insecurity rates are slowly declining.

The food insecurity rate in MA has dropped from 17.5% to 14.4% in the last 6 months (Dec 2020 - May 2021),

Sources: Pre-pandemic estimates, Feeding America. Data for the 2020-2021 rates, sourced from U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey weeks 2 through 31 and calculated using methods described by Schanzenbach & Pitts (2020).

Food Insecurity Trends in MA

Child Hunger

Food insecurity among households with children has been slowly rising from a low in April.

In November 2020, a staggering 21.8% of households with children in them in Massachusetts are food insecure. Over the last 6 months these rates have only dropped to an average of 15.9% of households with children (February 2021 - July 2021). And recent trends show that food insecurity among households with children in Massachusetts has been slowly rising from a low in April 2021.

Source: US Census Household Pulse Survey

Percentage Food Insecure households with children in MA chart

What's causing this trend?

This recent uptick in food insecurity in households with children may be due to the gap between school meal service ending and summer meals beginning. School meal programs are critical for families, and we need to continue to push for school meals for all and a permanent Summer EBT to overcome this crisis and permanently address hunger.

Inequities

Chronic & systemic racism has led to people of color being disproportionately impacted by food insecurity.

Minority households are recovering from the pandemic significantly slower than white households. In the last 6 months (Dec 2020 - May 2021), 1 in 7 (13.8%) white households with children compared to nearly 1 in 3 (29.3%) Black and Latino/a households with children were food insecure.

Source: US Census Household Pulse Survey

Food Insecurity among all Households in Massachusetts by Race/Ethnicity

SNAP Trends

SNAP enrollment has increased substantially since the onset of the pandemic.

SNAP has been a powerhouse during the pandemic to help people afford food. Enrollment data show that Massachusetts continues to see increases in SNAP enrollment from May 2019. As of June 2021, enrollment is 27.5% higher than it was in May 2019.

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Going back to 8.2% is not success

Food insecurity is declining, but a return to ‘normal’ is not an option. We can—and must—do better for each other.

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The importance of SNAP

SNAP provides 9 meals for every 1 meal a food bank provides

The federal nutrition program, SNAP, is our country’s most effective and efficient response to hunger. Only SNAP has the ability to quickly scale up to meet any size of need. SNAP is proven to reduce food insecurity and lift people out of poverty.

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Closing the SNAP Gap

Who's falling into the SNAP Gap?

According to data from MassHealth, as of March 2021, 659,340 people in Massachusetts fall into the SNAP gap. The SNAP Gap is the difference between the number of low-income Massachusetts residents receiving MassHealth who are likely SNAP eligible and the number of people actually receiving SNAP. Over 25% of people in the SNAP gap are children.

We have the opportunity to close the SNAP Gap this legislative cycle by creating a common application for these safety net programs through An Act to Streamline Access to Critical Public Health and Safety-Net Programs Through Common Applications (H.1290/S.761).

COVID-19 Response

How were food insecure households getting food during the pandemic?

SNAP was by far the biggest support. Roughly 1 in 3 food insecure households with children in Massachusetts were receiving SNAP. School meals were the next biggest support for families, who turned to free summer and school meal sites to help feed their children and take some of the pressure off their grocery budget.

In close partnership with the MA Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) and Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), Project Bread leads not only SNAP outreach efforts for the state but provides state-wide support for school meals and the summer feeding program, Summer Eats. The two programs providing the most support to food insecure families during the pandemic. 

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