Almost one in eight Maine families struggles with food insecurity. That means they don’t have enough money to ensure consistent access to the nutritious food they need to live active, healthy lives.

Nearly one in five Maine children doesn’t have enough of the right food to eat. One in seven Maine seniors reports experiencing hunger.

The state’s rate of food insecurity, 13.3 percent, is the highest in New England and higher than the national average, 11.1 percent. Even though the state records near historically low unemployment rates, the state has not been able to bring hunger levels down to where they were a decade ago, when the Great Recession put thousands of people out of work.

Maine’s struggle against hunger in what appears to be a growing economy puts into grim context the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to go ahead with a new rule that would tighten work requirements for people who receive food stamps. The rule is expected to take nutrition assistance away from 700,000 people, and create an administrative burden on the state social service agencies that administer the program.

This is supposed to motivate people who receive nutrition aid, but that’s illogical. Common sense will tell you that hungry people are not more employable. People without access to a healthy diet are not automatically motivated to work harder.

And what we have seen in our state is that having a job does not mean that you won’t go hungry. Many jobs in our economy don’t pay enough to guarantee access to the wide variety of nutritious foods needed to maintain health.

Maine’s 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, was right to call out the the Trump administration’s hypocrisy of introducing this new policy as a cost-saving measure. “The Trump administration gave trillion dollar tax cuts to corporations and billionaires, yet they don’t think people should have access to healthy, nutritious foods,” Pingree said in a statement Wednesday. “This is another example of how their cruelty knows no bounds.”

Rather than taking food away from people who need it, the federal government should be doing more to help the one in five Maine children or the one in seven Maine seniors who don’t have enough to eat. The government should be building an economy with jobs that pay enough to sustain a family.

If the Trump administration wants to fight hunger, that’s the way to do it.

 

 

 

 


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