New England is one of the most geographically diverse regions in our country. People of this region live on beautiful coastal plains or in vibrant cities, while others live on snowy mountains or on working farms. Many choose small-town life, having lived in the area for generations, while others move here for our way of life and sense of community. Even within our cities such as Boston, Burlington, Hartford, Portland, Providence, and Manchester there is a strong sense of community and belonging. Together, we make it through snowstorms, hurricanes, drought, and losing streaks. Our people work hard, are not afraid to struggle for their livelihoods, and have the democratic spirit of our ancestors who governed the states at their town meetings.
In a region so rich in history, educational opportunities, and community, it is hard to understand how the problem of hunger and malnutrition has become an epidemic, with an average of 1 in 8 households reporting food insecurity. Of the 14.7 million people living in New England, approximately 2 million live in food insecure households and 500,000 of those are children. The high cost of utilities, housing, and transportation put basic human needs out of reach for our neighbors, especially when so many rely on seasonal employment, whether it is picking berries, commercial fishing, or running ski lifts.
Additionally, while the entire U.S. is experiencing a rapidly growing senior population with 10,000 “Baby Boomers” retiring every day in the U.S., the population in New England is older than most other geographic regions. By 2030, it is estimated that 28% of New England residents will be 60 or older. Any weakening of the safety-net, including strong health care and nutrition programs that allow them to age in place, is a top priority.
Charitable food organizations, faith communities, and concerned community members are calling on our federal, state, and local officials to work to address this need. With the current administration proposing significant cuts to critical federal programs that low income residents rely on, it is appropriate to take stock of where we are, review our successes as well as our challenges, and plan for the future. Government at all levels has a responsibility to ensure that people have enough food for a healthy and productive life. New England is poised to lead the nation in these efforts, as it has done historically on so many issues related to justice and equality.
Hunger is one of the greatest injustices facing New Englanders today. At the same time our region is rich with assets to solve this problem: 20% of our Congressional Delegates serving on the Congressional Hunger Caucus; New England has outstanding food security advocates in each state; strong public support for well-run programs that serve basic needs; and a strong spirit of community across state lines within the region.
The following statement of shared beliefs and strategies was drafted by six anti-hunger advocates from New England, representing each state and over 80 collective years of service fighting hunger.
The goal of this compact is to:
1) share our collective vision, grounded in our shared values and knowledge of the causes and solutions to food insecurity, and;
2) to ask all elected officials, organizations, and individuals in the New England region to endorse these values when making policies that impact our people’s food security. We invite ally states to sign the compact as well if you share our beliefs and strategies!
We are asking all New Englanders and friends to join our efforts to end malnutrition and hunger so that generations of our people can thrive, whether they choose a life in an urban neighborhood, on the ocean, or a hilltop. We ask you for your commitment to ensure everyone in New England has access to adequate nutrition.