Researchers find Western Mass. has highest levels of food insecurity in the state

A new study shows that western Massachusetts has the highest level of food insecurity in all of Massachusetts, households in the area are having a harder time.
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 3:16 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A new study shows that western Massachusetts has the highest level of food insecurity in all of Massachusetts. This report demonstrates, yet again, that households in the area are having a harder time putting food on the table.

The Greater Boston Food Bank recently released a statewide study in collaboration with Mass General Brigham. The findings show that, in 2022, western Massachusetts had the highest rates of food insecurity in the state with 41 percent.

Also, on a statewide level, one in three households – 36 percent - in Massachusetts experienced child level food insecurity, meaning the child was either hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money for food

The study also showed that among households with children, the prevalence of child-level food insecurity in western Massachusetts alone is 43 percent, compared to 41 percent in central Massachusetts, and 32 percent in eastern Massachusetts.

Western Mass News spoke with Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Mass. He told us this has been a continuous pattern in our states history.

“Western Massachusetts is farther from the center of power from Beacon Hill and we have a smaller relative population with one of the biggest cities with rural communities with their own unique challenges,” Morehouse explained.

He said this stems from a multitude of factors including lack of economic opportunities in our region to earn a living wage and support a family.

“It’s not surprising at all that western Massachusetts is lagging behind the rest of the Commonwealth. We need more investments resources and policies to support working families and those families who are underemployed or cannot work,” Morehouse noted.

Of course, a spike in inflation is only making it harder and harder to put food on the table. The study found that overall food insecurity is still nearly 70 percent higher than before the pandemic. Moorehouse added that Black and brown communities are lagging behind even further when it comes to food insecurity and the study echoed that. It found that adults of color continue to face outsized levels of food insecurity and broke down to 61 percent of Hispanic households and 50 percent of Black households

As for what’s being done to address this?

“Our legislators in western Massachusetts, and for that matter many across the Commonwealth, are very aware of this and they are advocating hard for investments in programs and strategies in public policy to address the obstacles that families facing food insecurity need to overcome to be able to move passed food insecurity,” Morehouse said.

He added that a new state budget is currently being ironed out for the 2024 fiscal year.