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Fighting Food Insecurity & Hunger

Hunger and food insecurity contribute to a range of harmful outcomes, from impeding the healthy development of children to forcing families with limited incomes to choose between food, housing and medicine. The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides an essential safety net for low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities.

MLRI’s nationally-recognized Food SNAP Advocacy Project uses legal and policy advocacy to alleviate food insecurity and hunger in Massachusetts by increasing SNAP participation and benefits amounts.  The Project is a collaborative effort involving local legal services programs, food banks and food pantries, health care organizations and community based organizations. MLRI contributes expertise in the technical intricacies of the SNAP program and works to translate that expertise into systemic change.

Between 2001 and 2003, Massachusetts had the lowest rate of food stamp participation among eligible households in the nation. Thanks in significant part to MLRI’s advocacy and technical assistance, food stamp/SNAP participation in Massachusetts increased from 226,000 households in January 2005 to 499,000 households in January of 2013 - one of the largest increases in the country. Massachusetts currently ranks in the top 10 states in SNAP participation.

Since 2005, MLRI has been in the forefront of developing policy recommendations to reduce the amount of verifications, the length of applications, and the number of interviews and urges the state to revise other administrative tasks that create barriers to low income households. 

Indirectly, MLRI’s Food/SNAP Project serves all Massachusetts residents by generating increased economic activity and by reducing the economic costs of hunger– including the costs of impaired educational outcomes for children.  The U.S. Dep’t of Agriculture estimates that each dollar in SNAP benefit spending generates approximately $1.81 in increased economic activity; SNAP benefits increase spending at local supermarkets and grocery stores, reduce the demand on food pantries and soup kitchens, and free up low income households’ cash income for increased spending on other basic necessities including additional and better quality food, housing and heat.

MLRI will continue to identify ongoing policy issues and coordinate legislative, administrative and community-based responses to eliminate additional barriers to SNAP program participation and mitigate the devastating effects of hunger on low-income children and vulnerable populations.

MLRI's advocacy to address hunger and food insecurity is made possible through the support of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), the Walmart Foundation, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and the Tufts Health Plan Foundation.