Like 49 million Americans across the country, more than 110,000 individuals in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties seek food assistance every year from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and our region's emergency food network. There are probably many more who need our help.
September is Hunger Action Month. This is a time when the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as a member of Feeding America—the national association of food banks—joins more than 200 food banks nationwide to urge everyone to take action against hunger and food insecurity.
It's unconscionable that so many people both here and across the country live with anxiety about when and how they will get their next meal. One in eight residents of Western Mass. struggles with hunger or food insecurity—uncertainty about where their next meal will come from. Every week, 15,000 individuals rely on emergency food. Nearly 20 percent of all children in the region live in food-insecure homes. They live in our communities; they are our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates and our friends, yet their struggles often go unheard.
It's likely that every one of us knows someone who struggles with or has faced hunger at some point. Unemployment, low wages, temporary or permanent disabilities and high medical bills on fixed incomes are some of the common contributing factors. Combine these raw realities with limited food access, cuts in government subsidies to anti-hunger efforts and spikes in food prices, and the conditions are right for the perfect storm so many are living through now.
Families are seeking food assistance for longer periods of time than ever before. This is placing increased strain on the Food Bank and our emergency food network of more than 300 front-line member programs, including local meal sites, pantries and shelters. More than ever, community support is necessary to ensure that those seeking help are fed and that they know the community stands behind them. By lending your voice during Hunger Action Month, you can make a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of your neighbors.
Visit the Food Bank's website at www.foodbankwma.org to find resources and ways to join the Food Bank during Hunger Action Month. The "30 Ways in 30 Days" calendar outlines small but important actions you and your family and friends can take every day in September. If you don't have access to a computer, please call us at 413-247-9738 and we'll gladly answer any questions you may have. One in eight of us needs help. Will you stand by them during Hunger Action Month?
Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Inc.