Food insecurity in Franklin County affects 9 – 15% of the population. There is no perfect model for measuring this condition however agencies such as the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Community Action Pioneer Valley, and Feeding America all provide reports regarding food insecurity, community needs, and impact analysis of being in need of food.
The economy may be improving since the Great Recession, but the recovery is still leaving many Americans who were hit the hardest behind. Millions of people are still struggling to get by because of underemployment, stagnant wages, and rising costs of living. (Feeding America 2018)
Hunger threatens our nation’s future
Many people facing hunger are forced to make tough choices between buying food and medical bills, food and rent, and/or food and transportation. This struggle goes beyond harming an individual family’s future, it can harm us all. (Feeding America 2018)
What is food insecurity?
Food security is a federal measure of a household’s ability to provide enough food for every person in the household to have an active, healthy life. Food insecurity is one way we can measure the risk of hunger. (Feeding America 2018)
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic
Rates of food insecurity are closely tied to the upswings and downturns in the economy. Food insecurity increases when the economy is in recession. There is no doubt that the pandemic has caused an economic contraction, with prospects of a prolonged recession, if not depression. Predictably, we are seeing food insecurity rise. Feeding America estimates that 2020 saw 50 million people in the U.S. struggling to get enough food, up from 35 million in 2019, a 43% increase. Food insecurity at the national level has tracked with economic expansion and contraction over the past 15 years. In 2008, the first year of the Great Recession, the share without enough to eat increased by over one-third compared with the prior year.
The COVID-19 recession has been characterized by a larger and more rapid increase in unemployment rates than the Great Recession, which explains some of the reasons why the rate of those reporting not enough to eat has spiked so high in recent months. Widespread closures of schools and childcare centers that usually provide meals to children are also contributing factors. Unemployment rates decreased in the fall of 2020, and schools partially re-opened, which should alleviate some food insecurity. However, this trend could be reversed if/when the pandemic re-intensifies and businesses and schools close again. (Community Needs Assessment December 2020)
What the Stone Soup Café Does to Meet our Community’s Needs:
While providing healthy meals for the community anchors most of the Café’s activities, as an organization we have more transformative goals in mind.
We strive to create a safe space where all members of our community are valued, where each person’s inherent worth and dignity is celebrated, and that all of our guests have the opportunity to participate in our meal and offerings.
Embracing the tenets of the Zen Peacemakers—the original founders of the Café’s weekly meal—we approach all of our community-building efforts with the spirit of loving-kindness.