Lost jobs. Lost homes. Lost savings. At Project Bread, we know that despite the hopeful fiscal signs, many families are still hurting and have entered a stage of quiet desperation.
Our FoodSource Hot Line heard from nearly 50,000 people last year, up from 37,000 the year before. Not surprisingly, more than 554,000 people across the state are struggling to put food on the table.
Whether you are part of the newly unemployed or the underemployed, we know that your food budget is the first to suffer. We also know — from speaking to those who are calling for the first time — that many people are reluctant to ask for help.
We want to reassure you that there are programs in place to help you or that elderly neighbor down the street get through these hard times — and you should take advantage of them.
For example, did you know that by getting free school meals for breakfast and lunch a family with three school-age children can save $187 a month or over $2,220 a school year?
Did you know that the average household benefit for a family on SNAP/Food Stamps is now $257 a month or $3,984 a year? By combining school meals and SNAP, you are able to buy more fruits and vegetables and add lean protein to your evening meal. In times like this, every dollar counts.
And every calorie counts as well. Food-insecure people often skip meals or fill up on cheap, processed food.
If you eat a nutritious meal, you are more likely to remain healthy and productive. Eating well is not just about giving the body fuel, it's about maintaining your strength and productivity.
We all want our children to grow and thrive, but right now, we also need to help one another. So, if you're struggling to put food on the table or know a neighbor who might be, use this information to help.
Here's how to get the help you need:
Call Project Bread's FoodSource Hot Line at 1-800-645-8333. It's the only comprehensive food hotline in Massachusetts. Counselors can answer calls in 160 languages and all calls are both personalized and confidential. The FoodSource Hotline is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Counselors will tell you about all the programs for which you are eligible.
Visit the state's Virtual Gateway to learn more about SNAP and apply for SNAP online at www.mass.gov/dta or call the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) at 1-866-950-FOOD.
For pregnant women or families with young children, call the Department of Public Health at 1-800-WIC-1007 to enroll in WIC, a health, nutrition education, and prevention program designed for women, infants, and children up to age five.
Join us for The Walk for Hunger on Sunday, May 2. It begins on Boston Common between 7 and 9 a.m. The money you raise helps those struggling to feed their families right here in Massachusetts.
We urge you to clip this information and share with your neighbors. Getting the help you need — and giving the help others need — is one way we gain strength as a community and demonstrate our resiliency in hard times.
Ellen Parker is executive director of Project Bread and its Walk for Hunger.