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Local Hunger Facts

1 in 5 children in Western Massachusetts live in food insecure households.

• More than 200,000 people in Western Massachusetts (that’s one in every eight residents) face hunger.

• Each week, 15,000 of our neighbors seek food assistance from The Food Bank and our 300 member agencies.

Read The Food Bank’s fact sheet (PDF).

Food Hardship Data from FRAC

On August 11, 2011, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released the latest data on food hardship – the inability to afford enough food – for every region, every state, every Congressional District and 100 of the country’s largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) for households with and without children, including those in Springfield.  Findings for childhood food hardship in Massachusetts include:

  • •20 percent of households with children in Massachusetts (1 in 5) said they were unable to afford enough food. The food hardship rate for households without children was 14.4 percent.
  • •For the Springfield MSA, the food hardship rate for households with children was 25.4 percent in 2009-2010, and 19.1 percent for households without children
  • •Springfield ranks at number 37 out of the 100 largest MSAs in the country in terms of food hardship rates.
  • •Springfield has the highest childhood food hardship rate of all the MSAs in Massachusetts that are included in the top 100 MSAs. Other large MSAs in Massachusetts include Boston, Worcester, and New Bedford-Fall River.

The data were gathered as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, which has interviewed more than one million households since January 2008. FRAC has analyzed responses to the question: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”

Download the complete FRAC Food Hardship in America 2010 Report
Download Food Hardship FAQ

Map the Meal Gap

This groundbreaking study provides us, for the first time, with accurate food-insecurity numbers that are broken down to the local level.  Feeding America, the national organization of food banks, discovered that almost 47 million Americans nationwide are food-insecure.  This means that for most of the year, they do not always know where there next meal will come from. And 29 percent of those people earn too much to qualify for government assistance, but not enough to pay for medical bills, utilities, mortgage or rent, and food.  They have no other choice but to turn to charitable food assistance—like that provided by The Food Bank and our member agencies—to make ends meet.  (Click here to see Feeding America’s interactive “Meal Gap” map.)

Through “Map the Meal Gap,” we are able to see, for the first time, what these numbers mean nationally.  In Western Massachusetts (the region served by The Food Bank including Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties), over one-third of our food-insecure neighbors do not qualify for federal assistance.  These hard-working families and individuals reported a food budget shortfall of over $48 million.  They rely on The Food Bank

Below, you can see the ‘Map the Meal Gap’ data for Western Massachusetts.

Berkshire County

Total population: 131,528
Food Insecurity Rate: 11.1%
Number of food Insecure individuals: 14,550
% below SNAP threshold of 200% poverty: 67%
% above SNAP threshold of 200% poverty: 33%
Cost of 1 meal: $3.04
Total food budget shortfall in 2010: $7,613,640
The ‘Meal Gap’ (number of missed meals): 2,504,487

Franklin County

Total population: 71,523
Food Insecurity Rate: 10.6%
Number of food Insecure individuals: 7,610
% below SNAP threshold of 200% poverty: 67%
% above SNAP threshold of 200% poverty: 33%
Cost of 1 meal: $2.70
Total food budget shortfall in 2010: $3,536,750
The ‘Meal Gap’ : 1,309,907

Hampden County

Total population: 462,270
Food Insecurity Rate: 13.6%
Number of food Insecure individuals: 62,990
% below SNAP threshold of 200% poverty: 71%
% above SNAP threshold of 200% poverty: 29%
Cost of 1 meal: $2.59
Total food budget shortfall in 2010: $28,081,930
The ‘Meal Gap’ : 10,842,444

Hampshire County

Total population: 157,326
Food Insecurity Rate: 9.9%
Number of food Insecure individuals: 15,640
% below SNAP threshold of 200% poverty: 51%
% above SNAP threshold of 200% poverty: 49%
Cost of 1 meal: $2.92
Total food budget shortfall in 2010: $7,860,950
The ‘Meal Gap’ : 2,692,106

Hunger in America 2010: Western Massachusetts Report

Hunger in America 2010 is the first research study to capture the significant connection between the recent economic downturn and an increased need for emergency food assistance, on a local and national level. The number of children and adults in need of food as a result of experiencing food insecurity has increased by 46 percent nationally since 2006.  Across the country, 37 million people seek emergency food assistance, including 14 million children.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts participated in the Hunger in America study by conducting dozens of client interviews at emergency food sites across Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties.

The data are based on surveys conducted at emergency feeding centers, such as meal sites and food pantries, but do not factor in many individuals also served at non-emergency locations in The Food Bank’s network, such as childcare centers and senior centers.

In Western Massachusetts, more than 65,000 residents are experiencing food insecurity—not knowing where they will find their next meal—a 20 percent increase compared to four years ago.

An estimated 15,000 people receive emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, meal site, or shelter served by The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Top line Findings for Western Massachusetts

  • In Western Massachusetts, an estimated 91,000 people receive food from emergency food sites annually.  That is about 84% of all people served by The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.  About 15,000 different people receive emergency food assistance every week in our region.
  • The number of people served through The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ emergency food network has increased by 22% since 2006.
  • The 91,000 people served annually by the emergency food network of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts include nearly 32,000 children and nearly 7,300 elders.
  • The number of children (those under age 18) needing emergency food assistance has increased by 8% since 2006.  10% of all children served are between the ages of 0 to 5 years old.
  • Among all households served through the emergency food network, 71% are food insecure according to the U.S. government’s food security scale, meaning they don’t always know where they will find their next meal.  Among households with children, 69% are food insecure.
  • 29% of all clients have very low food security, meaning they are sometimes completely without a source of food.  Among households with children, 19% have very low food security.
  • 71% of all clients have incomes below the federal poverty level.

To read a summary of the local results, download our Fact Sheet for Western Massachusetts.

Read the full Western Massachusetts report. (Note: this is a large file)

The Greater Boston Food Bank has compiled a summary of the hunger study results for the entire state of Massachusetts.  Read the statewide report summary.

Read more about Feeding America’s national results.

For media/press materials, please visit our press room.

More local hunger facts

  • More than 200,000 people in the four counties seek food assistance at Food Bank member agencies
  • In some towns in our region, hunger rates are more than six times higher than the statewide average
  • In 2009, the emergency food network in Western Massachusetts served 24% more meals to people in need than during the previous year, and experienced a 17% increase in the number of people seeking assistance
  • Hunger rates in Massachusetts increased by 22% between 2002 and 2005
  • Poverty rates in the four counties are: 10.5% (Berkshire), 9.2% (Franklin), 15.1% (Hampden), and 9.7% (Hampshire)
  • 27% of the people The Food Bank serves are children; 11% are elderly; and 11% are homeless families

Click here for more local, national, and international hunger resources.