News

 April 01, 2017

Food Access & Ending Hunger

 

Food Banks originally started to supply food to people who were experiencing emergency situations, such as the loss of a home to fire or natural disaster, or perhaps an unexpected job loss.  These were short-term needs that the world of charity could address. What we are seeing now, however, is an on-going need for food pantries and community meal programs.  People seeking food assistance are from every walk of life – people with advanced degrees, military veterans, single parents, retired elders, working families, people living with disabilities and chronic medical conditions.  For each person who needs to seek food assistance on a regular basis, it feels like one on-going emergency, but often a forgotten one in the public eye.  We know that there is no shortage of food in our country, or in the world, but rather too many people cannot access food.  For this reason, the Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB) believes that food is a fundamental right and that hunger is an issue of social justice.

Addressing a lack of access to food is more complicated than addressing short-term emergencies.  Identifying the barriers and testing solutions takes much more time, sustained effort, a variety of partners, and creativity.  People who are seeking food assistance on an on-going basis are generally struggling with insufficient income compared to the basic costs of living.  This may mean that they are working and are not earning enough to live due to low wages, or perhaps that they can no longer work due to age or a disability, yet the money they receive from Social Security is not sufficient to cover their basic costs.     

There are two ways that we can address a couple of barriers in Massachusetts through legislation, both of which are top priorities for the Worcester County Food Bank, and are goals embedded in the MA Local Food Action Plan.

  • For people that are working and are able to work, having wages that can provide for a basic standard of living is crucial to a person’s dignity and to the fabric of our society.  For this reason, the first goal of the Food Access, Security, and Health section of the MA Local Food Action Plan is for workers in Massachusetts to earn a living wage, aka a wage that accurately reflects the true cost of living. 
  • For both people who earning low wages and for those who cannot work, federal nutrition programs such as SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), school meals, and WIC (Women Infants Children), are crucial to ensure that people are able to access enough nutrition.  Programs are often very under-utilized, and reducing barriers to enrollment is crucial.  Ensuring streamlined application processes and creating a common application portal for a variety of benefits is an important step in supporting people who need to access nutrition programs.    

The WCFB is advocating for legislation related to both of these barriers, and we are doing so with broad coalitions that also understand their importance in supporting our local food systems.  In order for people to be able and willing to support a local food system, they must have purchasing power.   To learn more about these and other advocacy efforts the WCFB is engaged in, visit https://foodbank.org/learn-more/advocacy/ or contact Liz Sheehan Castro at lsheehancastro@feedingamerica.org.

  -- Liz Sheehan Castro, Director of Advocacy, Worcester County Food Bank


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