One in five children in Maine are food insecure. What does that mean in a state that grows and produces more food than it needs?
For many, food insecurity is economic. At its root, hunger is an income issue and approximately 14 percent of families and 16 percent of seniors have no idea where their next meal will come from.
Maine has the highest food insecurity rate of all the New England states and a 2018 report from the Maine Center for Economic Policy Maine found that families are struggling to make ends meet as middle-class jobs disappear and are replaced by low-wage jobs.
The report also found that even as the economy has grown in recent years, it has grown unequally with fewer gains for lower-income families.
Being food insecure does not just mean that you can’t afford to eat, although for some that is a real concern. It also means relying on low-cost foods, which typically are less nutritional and do not meet the standards for a well-balanced meal. Sending children to school, for instance, without proper nourishment does not set them up to have a successful day.
In 2019, the Good Shepherd Food Bank distributed millions of pounds of food statewide, the equivalent of 25 million meals, but found it wasn’t enough. Local food pantries and nonprofit organizations also help to supplement needs, but there is more to be done.
We urge Congress to come together to address food insecurity on a national level, strengthening nutrition assistance programs and providing greater access to those in need.
We urge our local leaders to take the issue of food insecurity seriously and continue to craft legislation that helps those most vulnerable. In 2019 Governor Janet Mills signed L.D. 1159, “Resolve, To End Hunger in Maine by 2030,“ into law aiming to create a comprehensive, strategic plan to end hunger in Maine by 2030.
Let’s make sure to hold our elected officials to account and make sure they follow through with this important resolve.