Thursday, October 30, 2008

PRESS RELEASES: Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008---Hunger in Massachusetts

Hunger in Massachusetts Increases at an Alarming Rate; 522,000 Struggle to Put Food on the Table

Project Bread releases 2008 Status Report on Hunger as many face problems with the basics this winter
October 30, 2008 – Project Bread, the state's leading antihunger organization, has released its annual report on the status of hunger in the Commonwealth. The disquieting trends described in this report point to a sharp and continuing increase in hunger among low-income families and individuals. The report further details the multiple economic effects that hunger has on the Massachusetts economy — especially in the areas of education and health — and argues for systemic solutions designed to address the food insecurity problems of entire populations.

Over eight percent of households in Massachusetts experience "food insecurity," a measurement that captures the degree to which an individual or family cannot obtain adequate nutritious food for a healthy life. "High food prices combined with the current economic crisis are driving a crisis in food insecurity that is broader and deeper than we've seen before in this state," says Ellen Parker, the executive director of Project Bread. "There is every indication that hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts citizens will need help to cover the basics — including many who have never needed help before."

Among Project Bread's findings:

§ Rising food and fuel prices usher in a new era of hunger and there is no evidence to suggest this will change. As the costs of food insecurity and hunger ripple out across the state, the impact on individuals and the economy as a whole is dramatic. Food insecurity and hunger are associated with bad health outcomes and difficulties in learning.

§ Survey research sponsored by Project Bread found fully one-third of school children in high poverty communities live in food-insecure families. Children who are poorly fed do not learn as well in school and are more prone toward obesity and associated health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

§ Data currently being collected from Food for Families, a Project Bread–funded hunger-screening project located in the pediatric service of seven community health centers in low-income neighborhoods, reveal more than 70 percent of the families have run out of money to make a meal. Nearly one third of the families say they cut the size of their children's meals or a child missed a meal because there was not enough money.

§ Reports from emergency food providers — soup kitchens, food pantries, food banks, and food salvage operations funded by Project Bread — show increases in the number of families seeking help. From July to September 2008, calls to Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline, an emergency food assistance line available in 160 languages, were 22 percent higher than in the same period of 2007.

The 2008 Status Report on Hunger also advocates for use of every solution available to hungry people, including immediate emergency help to ease the crisis and long-term solutions to manage the problem and stabilize lives:

§ Enroll every eligible resident in the federally funded nutrition programs — including food stamps, school food, after-school programs, and summer meals programs. The programs are available to every eligible citizen and bring millions of dollars into the state.

§ Bring Project Bread's Better Breakfast and Better Lunch guidelines to scale in low-income schools, potentially improving the health of 300,000 low-income school children. As a first line of defense against hunger in school-age children, the nutritional quality of school food should be improved to meet the highest nutritional standards for health and learning.

§ Provide access to Project Bread's toll-free FoodSource Hotline, 1-800-645-8333, available in 160 languages, as the first place for a family or an elder to turn for comprehensive information about emergency food and enrollment in federal benefits programs.

§ Protect isolated, homebound seniors from hunger by distributing emergency grocery vouchers through the existing system of homecare providers.

Project Bread's 2008 Status Report on Hunger in Massachusetts is attached in a PDF file. The complete report presents the data to support our findings and solutions. Ellen Parker, the executive director of Project Bread, wrote the report. For interviews with Parker, please contact Project Bread.

About Project Bread

As the state's leading antihunger organization, Project Bread is dedicated to alleviating, preventing, and ultimately ending hunger in Massachusetts. Through The Walk for Hunger, the oldest continual pledge walk in the country, Project Bread provides millions of dollars each year in privately donated funds to over 400 emergency food programs in 128 communities statewide. Project Bread also advocates systemic solutions that prevent hunger in children and that provide food to families in natural, everyday settings. With the support of the Governor and State Legislature, the organization has invested millions in grants to community organizations that feed children where they live, learn, and play. For more information, visit

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