BOSTON – May 21, 2020 – According to new projections released this week by Feeding America, one in 8 people (658,920) in Eastern Massachusetts is expected to experience food insecurity in 2020 as a result of the impact of COVID-19, a 59% increase over the most recent Feeding America report which showed one in 13 people (415,380) were food insecure in the region before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), one of 200 food banks in the Feeding America network and the largest hunger-relief organization in New England, has seen a corresponding surge in the demand for food throughout its network of 550 partner agencies in its service area of Eastern Massachusetts. GBFB just experienced the two largest distribution months in its 40-year history, distributing 8.1 million pounds of food in March 2020 and 9.5 million pounds in April. For perspective, GBFB’s highest average monthly distribution prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was 5.7 million pounds in 2019.
“Unfortunately, these new food insecurity projections do not surprise us as we have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for food in our region,” said Catherine D’Amato, GBFB President and CEO. “The emergency food network in Eastern Massachusetts, which includes 550 GBFB partner agencies, has shown incredible resiliency during this difficult time and continues to heroically adapt to the needs of an ever-increasing number of people, many of whom have never had to rely on a food pantry for assistance to feed their family.”
The new Feeding America 2020 projections include food insecurity rates by state, food bank service area and county for both individuals and children. On the state level, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has seen food insecurity jump from one in 11 people before COVID-19 to a projected one in seven in 2020.
For children in Massachusetts, food insecurity is projected to increase 81%, making Massachusetts the state with the 2nd highest percent change in children at risk of food insecurity in the country according to Feeding America behind only North Dakota (96%). In GBFB’s service area of Eastern Massachusetts, child food insecurity is projected to rise 93%, with one in six children now at risk to experience hunger.
Of the nine counties in GBFB’s Eastern Massachusetts service area, four (Barnstable, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth) have seen their projected food insecurity rates increase by over 70%. Suffolk County has the highest rate of projected food insecurity in Eastern Massachusetts with 16.7% or one in six individuals expected to struggle with hunger in 2020.
2020 Projected Food Insecurity Rates
|People||1 in 13 (415,380)||1 in 8 (658,920)||1 in 11 (617,380)||1 in 7 (943,530)|
|Children||1 in 11 (91,830)||1 in 6 (177,010)||1 in 10 (138,760)||1 in 5 (251,240)|
Compounding this increase in the need for food and the record setting number of unemployment claims is the fact that even before the COVID-19 crisis, Massachusetts was considered the most expensive state in the country in terms of the cost of a meal ($3.63). Eastern Massachusetts, GBFB’s service area, has the highest food costs in the state at $3.84 per meal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally the price of groceries grew 2.6% in April 2020, the biggest increase from one month to the next since 1974, which will put more pressure on people who are already food insecure.
Another indicator of the state of hunger in Massachusetts is that the rate of SNAP applications has risen 360% since the pandemic began. With nearly one million people statewide projected to be food insecure in 2020, many more people could be eligible for these federal benefits.
If people are in need of food, they are welcome to visit GBFB.org/needfood where they can find a list of resources and search for a food program by zip code.