The end of the year is often a time of giving, a time to donate to local food banks or to volunteer at a soup kitchen. When January rolls around we are excited to start a new year, to leave behind bad habits and to begin our New Year resolutions, but let’s not forget that when January comes around the individuals and families that benefit from that end of year giving are still facing hardships.
Over 1 million Massachusetts residents lack access to healthy and affordable foods, including 300,000 children. One in eight people in Massachusetts struggle with hunger. Our long, cold winters often force our most vulnerable families to choose between paying their utility or rent bills, or purchasing food. The high rates of food insecurity in Massachusetts have a number of causes, including low wages, poverty, and limited grocery access.
Fortunately, there are policies and programs that can reduce food insecurity and increase family stability. Policies that support increased wages and earned income tax credits allow families who are struggling financially to keep that little bit of extra income in their pockets so that they don’t need to choose between food and housing. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides much needed assistance for individuals and families to purchase healthy foods and supplement their grocery purchases, while the Healthy Incentive Program (HIP) helps to stretch those dollars at participating farmers’ markets, mobile markets, and CSAs. The Massachusetts Food Trust, which was established in law in 2014 but has yet to be funded, will reduce food insecurity in our communities by increasing access to healthy foods and creating much needed jobs.
What can you do? Show your support this month and every month of the year by taking action and joining MPHA’s efforts to reduce food insecurity. Look out for email alerts from MPHA on food insecurity solutions and the actions you can take to keep this work moving forward, get more involved in the campaign to fund the Massachusetts Food Trust Program by contacting Kristina St. Cyr, firstname.lastname@example.org, and stay up-to-date on current policies and programs by following us on Twitter (@MAPublicHealth) or on Facebook (ActionforAHealthyMass). Food insecurity is an issue all year round, start this year off right by doing what you can to make every home a food secure home.