Thirty communities in western Massachusetts have hunger rates that are six times higher than the statewide average.
On Thursday, October 20, hundreds of people gathered at the Clarion Hotel in Northampton to celebrate Senator Stan Rosenberg’s 25 years of elected service to Western Massachusetts. The event was an inspiring tribute to the Senator, with guest speakers that included former Governor Michael Dukakis, Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Senate President Terese Murray, U.S. Rep. John Olver, and Northeastern District Attorney David Sullivan.
The Food Bank was a grateful beneficiary of a special raffle held at the event at the invitation of Senator Rosenberg. As a long-time believer in the work of The Food Bank and a great supporter of local artists, the Senator saw a way to bring both causes together at his celebration. He approached artists from across the region to request pieces to be donated to the raffle, and received a wonderful response from eight talented artists. The Food Bank is thankful to the following artisans for their contribution:
We also want to thank the Boston Red Sox, which donated a pair of grandstand tickets to the 2012 season, and Lisa Andoscia of Rosewood Communications, who donated a pair of tickets to the 2012 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony.
By the end of the evening, The Food Bank had collected more than $1,100 in raffle ticket purchases, 100% of which will benefit The Food Bank’s work to reduce hunger and increase food security in Western Massachusetts.
In addition, The Rosenberg Committee has very generously committed to match all raffle ticket purchases, bringing the total fundraising from the evening to $2,200!
Since every $1 donated to The Food Bank allows us to distribute $13 worth of food, this event raised enough for us to distribute nearly 15,000 meals to people in need of food assistance.
Thank you Senator Rosenberg for your dedication to The Food Bank’s mission!
Dear Friends of the Food Bank,
I’m reaching out to you to ask that you convey to urge Senators Scott Brown and John Kerry to vote for passage of the Senate’s FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations legislation when it comes to the Senate floor and to oppose any amendments that would strip funding from valuable food assistance programs.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ ability to serve our region is at stake. This bill funds programs such as the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which are critical to addressing hunger in low-income families all across the state.
Hunger is a real problem in the Commonwealth. With unemployment stuck above 9% nationally and millions of families struggling to find work or working for reduced wages, the need for food assistance in our community remains incredibly high. Here in Western Massachusetts, nearly one in four kids lives with food insecurity, not always knowing where their next meal will come from. Protecting anti-hunger programs throughout the budget process is critical not only to reducing hunger in our state, but to making sure that more families don’t become hungry as their already resources would need to stretch further if these cuts were to pass. Let your elected officials know that you are concerned about the well being of Massachusetts children, seniors, and hard-working families—these are our neighbors facing hunger.
1. Call Massachusetts Senators Brown and Kerry.
Just call the Hunger Action Center hotline at 1-877-698-8228 to be connected directly to both of your Senators. You will be asked to enter your home zip code. When you are transferred through to the Senators’ offices, please deliver the following message:
2. Keep up the Pressure through Social Media!
After you call, you can further amplify your voice by posting your message on Senator Brown’s or Senator Kerry’s Facebook page or spreading the word through your own social media networks. Be sure to include your zip code in your message to let the senators know you are a constituent and simply urge to vote YES on the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill. We must use all of the channels available to let our elected officials know we are watching their votes closely!
If you have any questions, please call us at The Food Bank (413.247.9738) and we’ll be happy to chat, or email email@example.com, and someone on staff will try to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you for your time and concern.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
by Lydia Mills, Food Bank SNAP Outreach Coordinator
The other night, at a food pantry in Hampshire County, I helped an older gentleman with his application for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly called food stamps. Born in the late 1940s, this man was living on a fixed income that I would call a pittance. He seemed agitated and nervous, and as I explained to him what additional documents his caseworker might ask of him (including information on his pension), he burst out, “If I had a larger pension, I wouldn’t be applying for food stamps!”
Sadly, this type of interaction was not new to me. Once I met an older woman who lamented her situation, saying, “I thought these were supposed to be our golden years.” Many receive their Social Security checks, pay their bills, and then have next to nothing left over to put in the bank. SNAP benefits provide a necessary buffer and allow seniors to afford nutritious and easy-to-prepare food.
Seniors are among the most likely to be eligible for, but not receiving, SNAP. Myths and stigma, along with a lack of information about changes in the program, all factor into why seniors might not be in the program. Senior hunger is a serious problem that does not get the amount of attention it deserves, perhaps due to stigma and the fact that low-income seniors lack the resources or ability to make their voices heard. Feeding America reported on a study that said food-insecure seniors were 2.33 times more likely to report fair/poor health status and had higher nutritional risk than seniors with higher incomes.
At The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, we have made a point of reaching out to seniors: through ads on the Meals on Wheels menus, eligibility flyers and SNAP application assistance at Brown Bag events, and by making it known that the entire application can be done from the comfort of one’s own home. We take application information over the phone, and the caseworker follows up for the interview over the phone. It’s simple, it’s safe and it gives seniors the ability to provide food for themselves.
One more thing: a quick public service announcement! It’s terrible but true; winter is coming. Low-income seniors often find it difficult to pay their heating bills, but fortunately there is a service that can help. Fuel Assistance is available for anyone who meets the income requirements. If you have any senior neighbors, offer to help out with an application for fuel assistance. Contact Community Action! in Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties, and in Hampden County contact the New England Farm Workers’ Council/Partners for Community.
Last week marked the end of September, and also the end of Hunger Action Month, a national movement led by Feeding America and more than 200 regional food banks nationwide in order to raise awareness of hunger and food insecurity, bring to light the real faces of hunger, and offer solutions about how we can all work together to work towards a hunger-free future. Through this campaign, we work to show you that small but meaningful efforts can be made every day to help chip away at the problems of hunger and food insecurity in Western Massachusetts.
August rounded out with some discouraging news. New analysis of numbers provided by Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap project revealed that 22 percent of children in all four counties of Western Mass. are food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal will come from. In Hampden County, that number raises to nearly 25 percent, giving it the highest childhood food insecurity rate in the state.
With this news, those of us at The Food Bank were more resolved than ever to roll up our sleeves and work hard to get the word out about how prevalent hunger is in our community, ad what we can do to help. Looking closely at the problems that cause and lead to hunger and food insecurity can often lead to innovative solutions. Though emergency food distribution is critical, and is the backbone of what we do, there are many other ways The Food Bank and the emergency food network can work to reach sustainable ends to the problems that cause hunger. Through advocacy for responsible food policy, nutrition and cooking workshops, fostering collaborations between schools and farms, and partnering with community groups, we hope to work towards finding lasting solutions to the problems that cause local hunger.
On Thursday mornings in September, we highlighted this work, and made further connections, through the Hunger Action Month Speaker Series. Local experts, volunteers, dieticians, educators, and public health experts gathered bright and early at the Delaney House in Holyoke each week to discuss topics, including, The Real Face of Hunger, School Nutrition, Getting Local Food to Food Deserts, and Hunger and Obesity.
The series were a huge success, and the feedback we’ve been receiving has been wonderful. Some important stories were told, and some valuable connections made, further strengthening the work being done to fight hunger across the region.
Our work last month didn’t stop there. We led community members in intensive fundraising efforts, starting with they yearly ‘Fork it Over for Food’ campaign. In partnership with local restaurants, ‘Fork it Over for Food’ offers diners an opportunity to “tip” The Food Bank after their meals. And a very small amount goes a long way in fighting hunger. Did you know that $1 donated allows The Food Bank to provide $13 of food? Restaurants have started to send in their final tallies. Stay tuned to see how much we raised this year!
Perhaps the most exciting part of Hunger Action Month this year was the occurrence of our first annual ‘Will Bike 4 Food‘ charity bike ride against hunger. Over 100 cyclists participating in this year’s event, embarking on 25, 50, or 100 mile journeys through scenic Pioneer Valley. Participants were asked to raise funds leading up to the event, and we’re delighted to say that through their efforts, The Food Bank received more than $35,000. This is an incredible amount, especially for a small, first year event like this one. It’s a sure sign of ample potential for growth, and we’re already beginning to think of ways to make it bigger and better next year.
This September, the staff at The Food Bank tried hard every day to remind ourselves why we do the work that we do; and we tried to let you know as well. And through the hard work of community members like you, we were able to make a difference this month. As we move into the fall, we hope that you will keep the spirit of Hunger Action Month in mind. For information on how to become involved, visit our volunteer page, or call 413-247-9738. If you would like to make a donation, please visit our secure donation page.