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Navigating the complex challenges of food insecurity in Maine

The committee working on the roadmap is tracking progress towards ending hunger by 2030.
Credit: NCM

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Maine has set a determined goal to eliminate hunger within its borders by 2030. 

The Legislature has approved a comprehensive 70-page roadmap that outlines the strategies and steps needed to make this vision a reality. This roadmap is not merely a document. It represents the aspirations of Maine's lawmakers and citizens to create a state where every individual has access to nourishing food.

Around 153,000 Mainers currently identify as food insecure. This unsettling figure sheds light on the challenges faced by a significant portion of the state's population. 

What's more concerning is that 43% of these individuals do not qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits due to their income being deemed "too high." 

Dana Eidness, senior anti-hunger policy advisor for the Maine governor's office, said, "Poverty is often the underlying cause of hunger, stemming from challenges such as unaffordable housing, lack of accessible childcare, and inadequate healthcare. When wages fail to keep pace with these essential needs, a concerning gap emerges, leading to food insecurity."

Inflation, coupled with escalating costs of food, housing, and other basic necessities, compounds the difficulties faced by Mainers. 

The financial stability of families and individuals is being eroded, creating barriers to accessing food and maintaining a decent standard of living. 

Natalie Varrallo, Preble Street programs director, said, "Many who had never sought assistance before are now reaching out to food pantries and soup kitchens due to decreasing SNAP benefits."

One in 9 Mainers relies on SNAP benefits for their nutritional needs. 

Alex Carter of Maine Equal Justice Partners said, “So, who are those people? People of color, immigrants, single-family households, people with disabilities, and older women experience hunger at greater rates here in Maine”

A report from the governor's office exposes the multifaceted nature of food insecurity. Startlingly, 42% of single parents find themselves grappling with this issue, as do 22% of restaurant employees and 17% of grocery store workers. 

Preble Street, a local food bank, originally conceived as an emergency response system, has evolved into a lifeline for many. 

The Farm Bill, encompassing essential programs like SNAP and emergency food assistance, is poised to expire in September. Committee members stressed the importance of resetting this bill, recognizing its pivotal role in the roadmap to ending hunger.


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