Nearly 2 Million Adults in Massachusetts are Food Insecure Including 45% of Adults in Four Counties, According to The Greater Boston Food Bank’s Fourth Annual Statewide Study


Nearly 2 Million Adults in Massachusetts are Food Insecure Including 45% of Adults in Four Counties, According to The Greater Boston Food Bank’s Fourth Annual Statewide Study

  • Study finds 34% of state households report food insecurity, reveals stark racial disparities; eight out of 10 receiving SNAP benefits still seek additional food assistance
  • Food-insecure families report needing average of only $60 more per week to achieve food security

Boston, MA (May 29, 2024) – With exorbitant costs of living, increased grocery prices and the end of pandemic-era supports in 2023, 1 in 3 Massachusetts adults reported household food insecurity, according to the latest annual statewide study from The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), with the overall number increasing to nearly two million food insecure adults in the Commonwealth. The report, Food Equity and Access in Massachusetts: Voices and Solutions from Lived Experience, is a collaboration between GBFB and Mass General Brigham (MGB).

The study estimates approximately 1.9 million adults in Massachusetts are food insecure, an increase from last year’s estimated 1.8 million adults. Hunger exists in every county across the Commonwealth, with Western Massachusetts and the Boston area seeing the highest levels of food insecurity – Berkshire, Bristol, Hampden and Suffolk Counties report over 45% of adults experiencing food insecurity in 2023.

Although many households experiencing food insecurity utilize federally funded programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, & Children Nutrition Program (WIC) and School and Summer meals, as well as Community Food Assistance Programs (food pantries, community meal programs or mobile markets), the study shows these programs remain inadequate at the current funding level to alleviate food insecurity in Massachusetts. Seventy-nine percent of households using SNAP reported seeking additional food assistance. Additionally, three-quarters of people who used two or more food assistance programs still reported some level of food insecurity.

The households experiencing food insecurity reported on average needing approximately $60 more per week for food — a difference of about $2,000 a year. Statewide, the estimated amount needed among all households facing hunger in 2023 was around $1.7 billion to meet their annual food needs.

“Far too many Massachusetts residents suffer from food insecurity, which has significant negative impacts on their health, wellbeing and security. Our administration has partnered with The Greater Boston Food Bank to increase access to nutritious food across the state, and we’ll keep working hard to combat hunger,” said Governor Maura Healey.

GBFB has been conducting annual research since the end of 2020 to examine the prevalence of food insecurity and barriers to accessing food assistance programs. New to this year’s study is data about the free Universal School Meals program, food insecurity among seniors and college students, barriers and facilitators to WIC participation, more detailed race and ethnicity categories, and county-level food insecurity data.

This year’s study, conducted in collaboration with Mass General Brigham, is funded by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) through a U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant. The Greater Boston Food Bank also collaborates with MGB on several research community projects. One of The Greater Boston Food Bank’s 600 partner agencies that supplies free and healthy food to is MGH Revere Food Pantry, a center that serves 80 families each week with nutritious plant-based food that promotes health. The pantry treats food insecurity and aims to curb nutrition-related chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Due to overwhelming demand, MGB is slated to expand its offerings by 50% in the upcoming weeks with support from GBFB.

“Food insecurity is closely linked to cardiometabolic diseases—including hypertension and diabetes—which are major contributors to premature mortality and reduced life expectancy across the Commonwealth and in the communities served by Mass General Brigham,” said Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, Chief Community Health & Health Equity Officer at Mass General Brigham. “Lack of access to healthy, nutritious food continues to disproportionately impact communities of color and other traditionally marginalized groups. With nearly two million adults reporting food insecurity across the state, we are committed to partnering with The Greater Boston Food Bank and others to find equity-based solutions to this public health crisis.”

The research, led by Lauren Fiechtner, MD, MPH, GBFB’s senior health and research advisor and director of pediatric nutrition at Mass General for Children,  was developed with input from state, community, and healthcare partners, including GBFB’s Health and Research Advisory Council. From November 2023 to March 2024, GBFB conducted an online survey of more than 3,000 adults in Massachusetts, collecting data from every income, gender, race/ethnicity, age, education, and region to ensure representation of historically unheard voices.

“Lived expertise is the foundation of this report,” said Dr. Fiechtner. “When we asked folks facing hunger what needs to change, the responses overwhelmingly attributed food insecurity to high inflation and cost of living, low-paying jobs, and limited public transportation options. This study allows us to make data-driven, community-based investments and advance priorities that will have a real impact on the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors who are facing food insecurity every day.”

Through this report, GBFB aims to elevate voices of those with food insecurity and their lived expertise, highlighting their solutions for solving hunger; decrease inequities in food access by improving experiences for those receiving services from hunger-relief organizations and federal nutrition programs that meet dietary and cultural preferences; and continue addressing the elevated need and increase awareness of, support for, and enrollment in nutrition assistance programs for families across the Commonwealth.

“The fact that 1 in 3 people remain food insecure is an unacceptable day to day reality for far too many in our state, one of the wealthiest in the nation,” said Catherine D’Amato, president & CEO of GBFB. “Food insecurity is political, economic, and personal. Massachusetts may be doing all the right things, but without proper funding, benefits like SNAP and WIC are simply not enough to keep families fed, and many of them continue to make significant tradeoffs to put food on the table. As a state, we can fix this. We have the power to solve hunger here in Massachusetts.”

Of the 3,000 individuals who participated in the study, those who experienced food insecurity reported having to choose between paying for food or paying for utilities (69%), transportation (69%), mortgage or rent (62%), medical care (55%) or school tuition (39%).

GBFB provides several public policy recommendations to challenge disparities and the current state of food insecurity in Massachusetts which are available in the report.



  • Every county in Massachusetts experienced significant food insecurity in 2023.
    • Bristol, Hampden and Suffolk Counties have over 45% of adults reporting food insecurity in 2023.
    • Overall Food insecurity continues to inch up with approximately 1.9 million adults or 34% of the state’s households reporting food insecurity.
    • Stark racial disparities exist with American Indian/Alaska Native (62%), Hispanic (56%) and Black (51%) households experiencing the highest levels of food insecurity.
    • Over half of LGBTQ+ households report food insecurity (56%) in 2023.
    • Almost 1 in 2 college students at public and community colleges in Massachusetts live in a food insecure household (44%).
    • 1 in 5 seniors reported food insecurity in 2023
  • 1 in 3 households with children in Massachusetts report child-level food insecurity meaning a child went hungry, skipped a meal or didn’t eat for an entire day because there wasn’t enough money for food in 2023.
    • Participation in child nutrition programs among food insecure households with children continues to go up.
    • 60% of food insecure households with children under 5 participate in the WIC program.
    • 74% of food insecure households with children in school are now receiving free school meals thanks to the now permanently funded Universal School Meals legislation in Massachusetts.
    • Experience with Universal School Meals is overwhelmingly positive as shown through qualitative data.
  • Food Inflation remains the leading cause for food insecurity – 73% of food insecure individuals said that high inflation and rising food costs were the biggest barrier and needed to be addressed.
    • 86% of food insecure households said they were forced to buy the cheapest food available (which also tends to be the least healthy).
    • More than 60% of people said they had to make tradeoffs between food, and utilities, transportation or housing
  • Food insecure adults say that Food Pantries, SNAP, WIC or those using more than one of these programs is not always enough.
    • 75% of those utilizing two or more food assistance programs continue to report food insecurity.
    • Of households receiving SNAP benefits, 59% also report going to a food pantry.
    • Of those experiencing food insecurity and self-reported as eligible, 18% did not participate in SNAP in 2023. This difference is often referred to as the “SNAP gap.”
    • The overall number of households going to food pantries did not change significantly, but these households did report relying on food pantries more often in 2023.
  • Households experiencing food insecurity reported on average they needed approximately $60 more per week for food — a difference of about $2,000 a year.
    • Statewide, the estimated amount needed among all households facing hunger in 2023 was around $1.7 billion to meet their food needs.
  • Food insecurity can exacerbate many chronic medical and mental health conditions.
    • The leading chronic health conditions diagnosed in food insecure households are hypertension (35%), obesity (29%), and diabetes (27%).
    • People living in a food insecure household were twice as likely to screen positive for anxiety or depression.
  • Despite staggering data on food insecurity, there have been positive efforts made in Massachusetts in the last year.
    • Advanced MassHealth 1115 waiver program which piloted several reimbursable nutrition interventions with MassHealth patients and success has led to enhanced programming and increased funding coming in 2025.
    • Expanding infrastructure and strengthening the food system through significant physical expansions to the Massachusetts Food Banks, food bank capacity-building grants to their community food assistance programs, and the Food Security Infrastructure Grant program.
    • Passing permanent legislation for Universal School Meals in Massachusetts
    • Increasing funding for MEFAP, HIP, and SNAP access for immigrant families
    • Leading statewide diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging trainings for food pantry staff and volunteers to decrease stigma and discrimination in food pantries, facilitated by the Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts, DESE, and Promoting Good
    • Implementing college hunger programs across 27 public and community college campuses because of Hunger Free Campus grants through the Department of Higher Education
    • Hiring a Director of Food Security within the Department of Agricultural Resources and coordinate programs and funding throughout the state
    • Launching the Make Hunger History Coalition, an ambitious statewide initiative that aims to craft a comprehensive plan to eradicate hunger for good and mobilize a powerful movement to drive change


  • From November 2023 – March 2024, using an online survey company, GBFB surveyed more than 3,000 MA adults. Food insecurity is measured using the full 18-item USDA Household Food Security Survey Module (Household level). The survey included quotas for income, gender, race/ethnicity, age, education and region to ensure we included representation of voices that are historically overlooked. Weighting methods were used to create estimates representative of the Massachusetts population. New this year: surveys available in Chinese, Portuguese, Haitian creole in addition to English and Spanish. Also lived expertise solutions to food insecurity, how much additional money would be required to support food needs, food insecurity among seniors and college students, experiences with universal school meals, barriers and facilitators to participation in WIC and county-level data.

For more information on the survey’s methodology please visit:

About The Greater Boston Food Bank: 

The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and among the largest food banks in the country. As the food bank for Eastern Massachusetts, GBFB is feeding people in 190 towns across the region, distributing the equivalent of nearly 90 million meals through a network of 600 dedicated food distribution partners and programs. A member of the national Feeding America network, GBFB’s mission is to end hunger here. The organization remains committed to the belief that access to healthy food is a human right regardless of an individual’s circumstances. Through policy, partnerships, and providing free, nutritious, and culturally responsive food, GBFB is committed to addressing the root causes of food insecurity while promoting racial, gender and economic equity in food access. For more information and to help us help others, visit us at, follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@gr8bosfoodbank) and Instagram, or call us at 617.427.5200.  

About Massachusetts General Brigham

Mass General Brigham is an integrated academic healthcare system, uniting great minds in medicine to make a life-changing impact on patients in our communities and people around the world. Mass General Brigham connects a full continuum of care across a system of academic medical centers, community and specialty hospitals, a health insurance plan, physician networks, community health centers, home care, and long-term care services. Mass General Brigham is a non-profit organization that is committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. In addition, Mass General Brigham is one of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations and a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information, please visit


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