Nationwide, the number of people without access to adequate food plunged following its peak during the 2008 recession. In Maine, however, that number has continued to grow — in fact, the USDA reported that the rate of hunger grew more rapidly in Maine then in any other state over the last decade. Today, Maine ranks third in the nation for ‘very low food security’ — that is, starvation.
Food insecurity is a complex phenomenon, but at least one factor is clear. The LePage administration has remained committed to an ideological crusade against people living in poverty, purging tens of thousands of Maine families from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, even as more and more Mainers go hungry each year — all based on the specious premise that the lure of $4 a day keeps able-bodied adults from seeking work.
If LePage’s theory was true, we would have expected to see poverty and hunger drop in the wake of his policies — instead, we saw precisely the opposite. Teachers, especially in rural areas, report that their classes are full of children too distracted by empty stomachs to focus. Food pantries can’t keep their shelves stocked.
There is no reason that Maine children should go hungry more often than those in Iowa or New Hampshire, and as Governor, I’m committed to reversing this trend. I’d start by:
- Repealing the asset test that penalizes families for saving
- Taking advantage of the USDA policy allowing states to apply for broader aid in places that have experienced high unemployment, largely in western and northern Maine
- Growing the local food economy— small farms, processors and distributors — by supporting programs like Maine Harvest Bucks, which allow SNAP receipts to get double their monies worth of fresh, local produce at farmers’ markets, retail stores, co-ops, and farm stands
- Bringing advocates, public health experts, educators, and affected communities to the table to develop policies that ensure no Maine person is forced to go without food