Working Towards a Healthy and Sustainable Food System
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service defines food security as “access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.” In 2011, Maine ranked seventh in the nation with its concentration of people experiencing very low food security (formerly referred to as “hunger”).
More recent data from 2012 shows Maine ranked eighth in the nation in share of the population using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The rolls show 253,496 of Maine’s estimated 1,328,361 people (19.1%) using the program formerly known as “food stamps”. That’s an increase of 54% in just five years.
The most recent SNAP data for Cumberland County (June 2012) lists 12,178 children in households using the benefit program. Almost one-third of all students come from families whose income qualify them for free and reduced price school meals.
It’s Not Just About Food
People are not deprived of food because food is unavailable in the market, but rather because their access to that food is limited. There are serious education, income, and health consequences that result from lack of nutritious food.
With food insecurity a daily reality for thousands of children in greater Portland, it is critical to increase a sense of urgency about how to measure and address the problem. Raw poverty is obvious when we encounter it, but there is a continuum that presents itself as we move from food security to those extreme conditions. Understanding that continuum lets us identify and target effective interventions, and make the best investments to increase food security for all members of our communities.
Ensuring that people have access to enough food creates opportunities for a better life for all.
That’s what it means to LIVE UNITED.