More Mainers are going hungry today than 10 years ago. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from 2011 to 2012, 15% of Mainers struggled to keep food on the table.
That’s one in every seven Maine households.
What’s more, 7% of Mainers today experience what is called “very low food security,” that is, they sometimes go hungry because they cannot afford to purchase food.
Food insecurity means that households do not have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Very low food security means that the food intake of one or more household members is reduced and their eating patterns are disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. This would include, for example, parents who skip meals or go hungry themselves in order to feed their kids.
The percentage of Maine households experiencing food insecurity increased almost twice as much as the U.S. as a whole over the past decade. The rate of food insecure Americans increased from 10.8% in 2002 to 14.7% in 2012, while in Maine it jumped six percentage points from 9% to 14.9%.
USDA surveyed a representative sample of households in each state to assess food security. Depending on how many times they answered yes to questions like these, the survey determined whether or not a household is food secure:
- Did you worry that your food would run out before there was money to buy more?
- Were the children ever hungry but you just couldn’t afford more food?
- Did you ever eat less than you felt you should because there wasn’t enough money for food?
- Did you ever cut the size of any of the children’s meals because there wasn’t enough money for food?
- Were you ever hungry, but didn’t eat, because there wasn’t enough money for food?
- Did it ever happen that you couldn’t feed your children a balanced meal, because you couldn’t afford that?
- Did any of the children ever skip a meal because there wasn’t enough money for food?
- Did you ever not eat for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money for food?
In this light, political efforts to reduce food assistance benefits, take away school lunches, and obstruct expansion of summer food programs for children are inexcusable. Maine families deserve better.