At least 12.5% of Western Massachusetts residents are living below the poverty line, and that number is growing.
Emergency food assistance is designed to supplement several other streams of food sustenance in a modern economy – from earned income to public supports such as Food Stamps, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, and the Women, Infants & Children program.
One of the most effective ways to ensure that people have access to healthy and affordable foods is through government programs like SNAP, which provides supplemental cash assistance for food to families based on income. This program has proven increasingly necessary in light of evidence that working families do not earn enough money to meet all of their household expenses. SNAP is also a powerful stimulus to the local economy by enabling families to buy more food at local stores that employ local residents and that buy goods and services from other local businesses.
The Food Bank works collaboratively with the state Department of Transitional Assistance and other groups to increase SNAP outreach and enrollment in our region. Currently, there are 96,874 recipients of Food Stamps in the four counties of western Massachusetts, spending more than $210 million in federal dollars locally each year. While Massachusetts is fifth from the bottom in overall Food Stamp participation – 55% compared to the national average of 65% – the Commonwealth had the fastest growth in the nation in food stamp participation; a 71% increase from June of 2003 (308,109 persons) to July of 2008 (527,000 persons).
Get more information about SNAP by visiting the Department of Transitional Assistance’s website at www.mass.gov/dta.
More state-wide food assistance resources are available from the Massachusetts Department of Health & Human Services.