Less food on the table
1 in 3 adults struggle with grocery bills
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
“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.”