Boston Herald

Less food on the table

1 in 3 adults struggle with grocery bills

- By Lance Reynolds lreynolds@bostonhera­ The Associated Press contribute­d to this report.

Food insecurity continues to persist across Massachuse­tts, and with it, families are sacrificin­g their health as they seek the cheapest products available, according to a new report from the Greater Boston Food Bank.

The annual study, released yesterday, surveyed 3,000 adults in the Bay State between November 2022 and this January, finding one in three reported they continue to struggle securing healthy food on a consistent basis.

Though the rate is the same as in 2021, food agency leaders say they are concerned about what numbers may look like in the months ahead as lowincome residents will soon lose state-funded supplement­s for food assistance.

Friday’s scheduled allotment of the state-funded emergency assistance will be the third and final under Gov. Maura Healey’s $388.7 million supplement­al budget. The payments provided roughly $60 per month, since April, to the average household participat­ing in the federal Supplement­al Nutrition

Assistance Program.

“Even with the offramp of supplement­al benefits that the state-funded, we have already been seeing a lot of need at food pantries There’s this other looming threat of additional benefit cuts through the negotiatio­ns of the current debt ceiling,” GBFB’s vice president of communicat­ions and public affairs Catherine

Lynn told the Herald.

Congress late last year disconnect­ed the SNAP program from other pandemic relief plans, and February was the last month families received the extra federal money. The COVIDera subsidies resulted in an average bump of $151 to a participat­ing household’s normal monthly benefit of $335, according to the state

Department of Transition­al Assistance.

Now, Congress is deciding on a bill that would suspend the nation’s debt limit through 2025 to avoid a federal default while limiting government spending. Part of the agreement looks to expand work requiremen­ts for SNAP users, bringing the maximum age limit to 54, from 49, by 2025.

Vicky Negus, of the Massachuse­tts Law Reform Institute, said she is working closely with the state’s congressio­nal delegation on how to ensure the SNAP program can be most beneficial for participan­ts.

“Our federal government has under-invested in what families and communitie­s need in order to meaningful­ly put food on the table on a consistent basis,” Negus told the Herald.

In the GBFB study, 87% of respondent­s said they’re worried about being able to afford enough food if the SNAP increase ended. With the extra benefits, 65% of respondent­s said they were able to pay for more of their bills. About 58% reported they were going to food pantries less frequently.

“We asked how much more money families would need to support their household’s food needs, and over half of the SNAP users reported they’d need $100 or more per week. We’ve all seen how expensive groceries are, so there’s more of a need than ever.”

 ?? STUART CAHILL — BOSTON HERALD ?? Greater Boston Food Bank is needed more than ever a new study shows.
STUART CAHILL — BOSTON HERALD Greater Boston Food Bank is needed more than ever a new study shows.

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