In the towns of Augusta and Manchester, Maine, residents facing food insecurity can walk through their local food bank like they’re walking through a supermarket.
At the Augusta Food Bank, participants can select meat, dairy, produce, and other foods from the food bank just like they’re shopping, but never face a cashier or check-out line. The food bank fully reopened July 12, officials said, just as need in the area started to increase. During the pandemic, the food bank was open, only with fewer items.
Augusta, Maine, has a population of just over 18,000 people—Manchester, 2,580. But Bob Moore, head of the Augusta Food Bank, said its distributions are rising—up 20 percent from last year. It’s a number he expects to continue to rise.
Officials expect food insecurity in Kennebec County will increase to 14 percent of the county’s population—17,030 residents—because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nationally, one in six people, about 17.6 percent, face food insecurity, said Geri Henchy, Director of Nutrition Policy and Early Childhood Programs with the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) in Washington, D. C.
Henchy said food insufficiency, which measures how many people do not have access to enough food, affected one in 10 Americans this year.
Data showed that 9.7 percent of American households reported having food insufficiency between June 9 and June 21, 2021. In households with children, 13 percent reported food insufficiency. A reported 18.3 percent of Black households and 16 percent of Latinx households reported food insufficiency during the same time period.
While FRAC’s latest study did not specifically address rural areas, Henchy said she expected it to mirror previous studies that showed higher rates of food insecurity in rural areas, like the rural South.
A FRAC study released in July 2020, found that the Southern region of the United States had higher food insecurity rates (12.6 percent) than the rest of the country (11.4 percent).
Part of the math of food insecurity will change because of the permanent increase in SNAP benefits that passed last week and will go into effect on October 1, 2021. The Biden administration raised the benefit on average by $36.24 per person, per month, or $1.19 per day
“Many individuals in the Southern Region of the country live with the crushing burdens of food insecurity, poverty, and limited opportunities, and the public health and economic fallout of Covid-19 are only making matters worse,” said Luis Guardia, president of FRAC.
“People who experience food insecurity often need to make difficult decisions like choosing between food and medicine or food and rent. When people have a hard time putting food on the table, it not only harms them, it has costly implications on our nation’s economy and health system.”
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