By Nicole Shih Telegram & Gazette| March 24, 2021
WORCESTER — U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern and Attorney General Maura Healey visited Rock of Salvation Pentacostal Church to help distribute food boxes Wednesday morning.
In response to the fact that the number of people who are food insecure is increasing during the pandemic,, the church coordinated with officials to help deliver 200 food boxes to families in need. Feeding America, a national network of food banks, found that Massachusetts could see a 59% increase in people who lack consistent access to enough food to stay healthy – referred to as food insecurity. (This paragraph has been corrected. The state could see a 59% increase in people with food insecurity.)
“I just want to thank Jim McGovern because he made this possible. We came to him. We let him know we have a need. That’s a tremendous need,” said Rev. Jose R. Perez of Rock of Salvation Church, 829 Main St.
The food box includes milk, meats, apples, cheese and some bread products.
McGovern has been fighting for an increase in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program) benefits by 15%, one of the benefits in the American Rescue Plan. The current benefit is $1.40 per person per meal.
“I want it to be permanent,” McGovern said of the 15%. “I’ve asked President Biden to do a White House conference on food, nutrition and hunger.”
He said the American Rescue Plan is probably the biggest piece of anti-poverty legislation that he has ever voted on in his entire career.
McGovern also pushed hard on a social media campaign, “#EndHungerNow,” saying that everyone should be involved in eradicating the problem of hunger in our country as hunger was already a problem before the pandemic.
“We live in the richest country in the history of the world. There’s not a city or town in the United States of America that is hunger free,” McGovern said. “We all should be ashamed of that fact.”
There are too many people hidden in the shadows — so many families that are dealing with food insecurity, Healey said.
“One in five kids, maybe one in four kids in our state of Massachusetts, (are food insecure). That’s just not right,” Healey said. “I wanted to be here to support those who are providing these services and this food to families.”
“I wanted to show that their government is with them on this,” Healey continued.
State Rep. Mary Keefe joined the distribution.
“These churches aren’t only about charity. They are about organizing people and that’s one thing that we do really well,” Keefe said. “We need to combine people and bring people together so that we have a loud voice around the issues that are being raised here today.”
In addition to the SNAP benefits, the American Rescue Plan also provides $888 million to deliver expanded access to more fruits and vegetables for moms and babies participating in the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program, $37 million for senior nutrition through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and $1 billion in nutrition assistance for the territories.
The plan also aims to increase food available for distribution and provide grants and loans for reimbursements for the costs of PPE and test kits.
McGovern addressed the long-term solution to hunger should be the amendment of wages and programs.
“There are tens of millions of our fellow citizens who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, and we ought to commit ourselves to find a way to solve it, and that’s what I’m doing in Congress,” McGovern said. “It’s not just about one program. We need a holistic solution.”
Healey spent much of the day in Worcester. Besides the food pantry, she visited striking nurses at St. Vincent Hospital, voicing her support, and she was scheduled to stop at businesses and agencies in Main South including the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts.
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