At least 12.5% of Western Massachusetts residents are living below the poverty line, and that number is growing.
Nearly one in five Americans said there were times that they did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed. This troubling statistic comes as part of a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC): Food Hardship in America 2011. The report is based on data gathered throughout 2011 and provided to FRAC by Gallup, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project. FRAC analyzed data on the question: “Have there been times in the last twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” This question was asked by Gallup throughout 2011 of 352,789 different households in every region, state, congressional district, and in the 100 largest metropolitan area.
At the national level, 18.6% of those interviewed reported food hardship in 2011, the highest annual rate in the four years that FRAC has been following this data. In the third and fourth quarters of 2011, more people answered yes to the food hardship question (19.2% and 19.4%) than in any period since the fourth quarter of 2008; an interesting fact given the growth in employment during that same period. Despite these numbers a large number of Americans don’t see hunger as a local concern. In another poll conducted for FRAC in 2011, two-thirds of Americans rated hunger as a worse problem at the national level than at the community level. But the data shows that hunger and food hardship exist in every community.
The food hardship rate for Massachusetts is 14.5%. While lower than the national average, we aren’t encouraged. This percentage represents a significant portion of the population—our neighbors, family, and friends—who aren’t able to consistently meet the basic need of having enough food to eat. On a local level we find rates that are significantly higher than the rest of the state. For the Springfield MSA (metropolitan statistical area) in particular, the rate is higher than the national average at 19.3%, ranking the area 34th for food hardship in the country. The data on congressional districts paints a similar picture, with the two districts that include all of Western Massachusetts (1 & 2) displaying high rates of hardship, at 15.9% and 18.7% respectively.
These numbers are disappointing, but not surprising in light of the anecdotal evidence we’ve seen in the region. Our member agencies have consistently needed more food for more people who need help for longer periods of time. FRAC’s research reinforces the need for the services provided by The Food Bank and our member agencies to continue to fight hunger and food insecurity here at home. As the data shows, no community is free of food hardship.
Since 1982 The Food Bank and our partners have been working to serve those in need. Sadly, this new report demonstrates that our work isn’t over yet. But with your help, we can continue to serve the more than 135,000 individuals who use the emergency food network in Western Massachusetts, and reach out to more of neighbors who are facing hunger. Find out how you can help us fight hunger.Comments Off
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