‘Map the Meal Gap’ highlights food insecurity in Eastern Massachusetts

Food insecurity rates among residents of Eastern Massachusetts remain unchanged as the national rate is on the decline, a recent report published by the Map the Meal Gap project found.

The numbers show that nearly 500,000 people in Eastern Massachusetts are struggling to feed themselves, which equates to one out of 10 people, Greater Boston Food Bank spokeswoman Kristin Foley said.

The Food Bank credits the high costs of food as a major issue, as Massachusetts was among the top five states in the nation with the highest average meal cost, the report found.

Nationally, the number of Americans struggling with food insecurity decreased from 48 million in 2014 to 42 million in 2015, the report found. While this shows an improvement over time, the authors of this study noted that those struggling to get by are in greater need than ever before.

Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap project also noted that the amount of money people need per week to feed themselves in Massachusetts is 15 percent greater than the national average.

Most food-insecure people in Massachusetts need an additional budget of $19.23 per week to adequately feed themselves, while the national average is $17.38 per week, a greater food budget shortfall of $1.85 in comparison, the report found.

The food budget shortfall in Eastern Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank noted, is 74 cents greater than the $19.23 shortfall faced by most residents in the state, data showed.

Overall the state saw a decrease in the number of residents struggling with food insecurity from 11.1 percent in 2014 to 10.3 percent in 2015, the report found.

Also troubling was the percentage of food-insecure people who don’t qualify for federal nutrition assistance programs, which was estimated to be 34 percent in 2015, the report said.

In addition to the rising cost of food, the report also cited other cost pressures, such as housing, utilities, medical expenses and other issues like stagnant wages and underemployment, which all contribute to people’s greater need to access food.

“One in ten Massachusetts residents not only don’t know where their next meal is coming from, but can’t even afford to buy as much food as they could last year,” Greater Boston Food Bank President and CEO Catherine D’Amato said in a statement. “The situation has gotten worse, not better, for them in the Commonwealth.”

The report suggests strengthening programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program while easing restrictions on donations to food banks as ways to help meet the needs of those who are struggling.

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

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