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9 Percent Of Mass. Residents Receive Food, Shelter Aid

This article is more than 10 years old.

Reflecting the dire economic conditions for many in the state, the number of people in Massachusetts who use a food pantry, soup kitchen or pantry has jumped by 23 percent over the past four years, according to a new Hunger in Massachusetts study.

As a result of this increase, 9 percent of the state's population now utilizes such food or shelter assistance.

"It's a chronic problem and indeed we are seeing a pervasiveness across our commonwealth," said Catherine D'Amato, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank. "And it's a crisis in our country and it's a crisis in our commonwealth."

D'Amato said that the largest statistical increases are among the homeless and the elderly. Twenty-one percent of clients served by the state's food banks are homeless, up from 14 percent in 2006. Similarly, 14 percent of clients are 65 or older, up from 11 percent in 2006.

Ernest Weinschenk, of the Central Ministry Food Pantry in Lowell, has witnessed such an increase among seniors. "Mainly they are on fixed income and they have (an) increase in medications and things like that," he said. "And it isn’t covering everything, the rent and everything, so they come for food."

The study also indicates that the need for food is outpacing the state's emergency food network, even though Massachusetts has distributed 30 percent more food than it did in 2006.

This program aired on February 2, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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