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15 Percent of Mass Residents Can’t Afford Food

Monday, September 10, 2012

 

Nearly 1 in 7 Massachusetts residents reported being unable to afford food at times during the past 12 months, according to recent Gallup data.

The 14.9 percent of Commonwealth residents struggling to put food on the table was the second-lowest rate in New England behind the 11.9 percent of residents in Vermont.

After the severe drought the country experienced this year, those numbers may increase as food prices rise in the coming months.

More Children, Families Hungry in Worcester

While 2012's numbers are not markedly higher than in years past, Donna Dimiziano, director of The Mustard Seed, a Catholic Worker House in Worcester that provides food for the hungry and homeless, said there has been a definite increase in need, particularly among families, over the 28 years she has been involved with the organization.

"There are children in this neighborhood and parents who literally do not have food in their house this weekend."

Dimiziano said the Mustard Seed, located at 93 Piedmont Street, typically serves 150 hungry people each week, but that number increases to more than 200 toward the end of each month as money and food stamps run short.

"People are having a hard time even getting on food stamps," she said.

Meanwhile, the number of residents receiving food assistance is dwindling as recipients get cut off and are forced to turn to food banks and pantries like the Mustard Seed.

"They come every night to the soup kitchen in tears."

According to Dimiziano, ever-increasing rents and the bureaucratic paperwork required to register for food stamps are the two major factors driving more and more people to her table each day.

"Sometimes there's not enough food to feed everybody that comes through the food pantry," she said.

Soup Kitchens Struggling to Meet Need

The Mustard Seed does not receive any grant funding and survives solely on donations. On days when the patrons outpace the pantry's stores, Dimiziano is faced with the difficult task of choosing who gets to eat and who will spend another night going to bed hungry.

"We take everybody's name, and they have to live in the neighborhood," she said.

"Every food pantry is basically having to do that now."

What the increasing number of Mustard Seed regulars need, said Dimiziano, are advocates to help them navigate the often-difficult process of enrolling in food aid programs.

Donations of supermarket vouchers and vouchers for meat are increasingly prized, and the need for items that will make meals for families with young children is particularly acute.

"I hate to see kids hungry," said Dimiziano.

 

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