The organizers of the World Food Program remind us that hunger is a problem that has plagued humanity for millennia. But just because it persists does not mean that we can’t be the generation that ends hunger.

One in 10 people in Maine goes to bed hungry. Based on statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 2019 and 2021, Maine is tied with Connecticut for worst in New England in food insecurity. When it comes to what is called “very low food security” – that’s real hunger – we are worst in the region, according to the USDA.

For a local-level look at this figure, check out the Hunger Map. Here’s how Feeding America carries out its study: “The relationship between food insecurity and its closely linked indicators (poverty, unemployment, homeownership, disability prevalence, etc.) are first analyzed at the state level. Then, the coefficient estimates from this analysis are used in conjunction with the same variables for every county and congressional district. Together, these variables can generate estimated food insecurity rates for individuals and children at the local level.”

Just seeing that map of Maine and then comparing Maine with the rest of New England and the nation is sobering and, hopefully, you will agree, unacceptable and unnecessary.

But thanks to the passage of the Hunger Prevention Act, L.D. 1046 in the 130th Maine Legislature, signed into law by Gov. Mills in July 2021, you finally have the opportunity to send a contribution to the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Program by checking off a box to give a voluntary donation, No. 8 on Schedule CP on your 2022 Maine income tax Form 1040ME.

This contribution from the people, this grassroots effort, is meant to close the gap to end hunger in Maine, but it will achieve that mission only if current individual, institutional and government efforts to feed the needy in Maine continue to be supported.


It is a temporary measure while solutions to the complex underlying causes of chronic hunger are created.

But in the meantime, compassion for those suffering from chronic hunger can be our siren, our call to immediate action.

Even if you are already donating to your local food bank or working at a food kitchen, please consider taking this additional step. It will support food pantries and community hunger prevention programs around the state in any and all nonprofits working to feed those in need, from the tiniest churches and pantries in northern Maine, where much of the chronic hunger exists, to the islands, to larger organizations, including the Preble Street Food Security Hub, Good Shepherd Food Bank, the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, Wayside Food Programs, Seeds of Hope, etc. Funding will be distributed to qualified applicants by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, thus broadening the reach of the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Program to every nook and cranny of Maine.

If just half of Maine income taxpayers check off the $25 box, it will bring in $10 million in 2023. Making $5 or $10 or “other” donations is also welcome. But let’s get the word out to encourage many more than half of our 800,000 Maine income taxpayers to step up and check a box. As Maine House Majority Leader Maureen Terry, the sponsor of the bill, points out, it’s just like taking a neighbor’s hungry family out to a reasonably priced dinner.

It is a civil and a divine right to have one’s hunger met first with charity – that is, an adequate amount of nutritious food – and then with social justice – that is, concerted efforts made through public policy actions and additional grassroots efforts to eliminate the causes of poverty.

This commentary was edited at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, to remove an incorrect analysis of Feeding America’s figures on the prevalence of hunger in counties in Maine.

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