Food Insecurity: The Way Life Shouldn’t Be
In the 2008-2009 “Great Recession,” hunger in the United States skyrocketed by over 30%, and Maine saw a similarly large increase. Since then, much of the country has seen recovery and relief, but Maine unfortunately has not. While nationally the rate of food insecurity receded to near pre-recession levels, widespread poverty and hunger continue to harm our state. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly one in five Mainers is food insecure, meaning they live without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The rate of food insecurity among Maine children is even higher: nearly one in four children in Maine experiences food insecurity. Maine also ranks third in the nation for the proportion of households experiencing “very low food security,” an indication that one or more people in a household were hungry at times during the year because they could not afford enough food.
The good news is that there are both broad actions and targeted policies that can help close Maine’s terrible hunger gap. The USM Food Studies Program is deeply committed to helping end hunger in Maine. We work on this issue in multiple ways:
- by educating students through both undergraduate and graduate-level coursework on the root causes of hunger, empowering them to become knowledgeable and effective advocates for a hunger-free Maine;
- by working closely with community partners who have deep expertise on this topic, helping to elevate their voices, provide forums for information sharing and policy discussion, and lend qualitative and quantitative research capacity to their efforts;
- by hosting speakers who are leading experts on poverty and hunger in order to broadly inform and inspire students and the public; and
- by providing internship opportunities for USM students to support the work of food security-focused non-profits and public agencies.
This page is a resource for students and the public highlighting ways each of us can become more engaged in helping to end hunger in Maine and beyond. We hope you are inspired to action!
What can I do right now?
- Educate yourself and others.
- Support local leadership in food-system work (farmers’ markets, food co-ops, community gardens, etc.).
- Write an article for local newspaper, highlighting the work your community is doing to fight food insecurity.
- Plant an extra row of produce in your garden to harvest and donate to a community organization.
- Participate in gleaning efforts to help farms donate excess produce.
- Volunteer your time at a food bank, food pantry, or soup kitchen.
- Donate cash to a food bank, food pantry, or soup kitchen. Cash donations are helpful because they allow the organizations to buy food in bulk, inexpensively, allowing your dollar to be stretched farther!
- Share resources.
- Host a food drive.
- Support government officials who care about reducing hunger.
- Advocate for federal nutrition programs.
- Join a movement – or start one!
Community Partner Profiles
Ending hunger doesn’t happen without help! Below are some of our major community partners. Check out the work they’re doing in your community.
- Cultivating Community
- Cumberland County Food Security Council
- Food Security Coalition at the University of Southern Maine
- Good Shepherd Food Bank
- Maine Farmland Trust
- Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program
- Preble Street, Maine Hunger Initiative
Below are a few of our favorite key resources. If you have suggestions for others, please let us know!
- 2017 Maine Gleaning Week Report
- Cumberland County Food Pantry Distribution List (PDF)
- Farm Bill Process (PDF)
- Growing Food Connections: Profiles of Communities of Opportunity (Cumberland County)
- Hunger Pains (February 2017)
- Maine Food Atlas
- Maine Supplemental Food Resources (listed by county): These resources were created by Food Studies students in the Fall of 2017.
- Portland Community Food Resource Guide
- 2018 Natural Resources Council of Maine’s School Food Recovery Handbook (PDF)
- SNAP: A Lifeline for Hungry Mainers (September 2017)
- Interactive Food Insecurity Map
- The People Left Behind When Only the ‘Deserving’ Poor Get Help, The Atlantic, May 25, 2017