Volunteers sort food in a food bank.
The Greater Boston Food Bank reports one in three households in Massachusetts experienced child-level food insecurity in 2022. That means a child was hungry, skipped a meal or did not eat for a whole day because there wasn't enough money for food.

Stalled Farm Bill puts pressure on MA food banks

Massachusetts food banks are struggling to keep up with demand as the Farm Bill remains stalled in Congress.

The bill is renegotiated every five years and contains the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which ensures food banks can help the 20% of Massachusetts households facing hunger.

Vince Hall, chief government relations officer for Feeding America, said advocates for these families are asking Congress to double the program’s funding as grocery prices remain high and pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions continue.

“That program moves food from local farms to local food banks,” he said, “and it helps to close the gap between the food that’s been donated and the food that’s needed.”

Hall said the current Emergency Food Assistance Program is still operating on a 2008 cost basis, which limits its impact. He said the consequences of not securing this additional funding are dire; one in 12 children in the Commonwealth is coping with food insecurity.

Feeding America is partnering with the Farm Bureau, International Dairy Farmers Association and the Pork Producers Council to raise awareness of the negative impacts a stalled Farm Bill is having on America’s poorest households. But infighting within the GOP-led House has stalled legislative priorities. Hall said if the Farm Bill isn’t updated soon, the current hunger gaps will only widen.

“We may have a crisis where not enough food is available to feed people in need,” said Hall, “where distributions have to be closed or distributions run out of food.”

Hall added that Feeding America and other organizations are urging families to advocate for themselves and speak to legislative leaders in their own communities. He said it’s important for members of Congress to also visit a food bank to see what hunger looks like for themselves, and understand how vital they are to keeping families fed.

by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service

Kathryn Carley began her career in community radio, and is happy to be back, covering the New England region for Public News Service. Getting her start at KFAI in Minneapolis, Carley graduated from the University of Minnesota and then worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, focusing on energy and agriculture. Moving to Washington, D.C., she filed stories for The Pacifica Network News and The Pacifica Report. Later, Carley worked as News Host for New York Public Radio, WNYC as well as Co-Anchor for Newsweek’s long running radio program, Newsweek on Air. Carley also served as News Anchor for New York Times Radio. She now lives near Boston, MA.

Languages Spoken: English

Topic Expertise: education, environment, nuclear energy

Local Expertise: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, New York City, Wisconsin, Minnesota

Demographic Expertise: public schools, families, children, nutrition

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