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USM Grad Students aid report on hunger in Maine

Photo of professor Michael Hillard

USM Graduate students contributed to a just-released report on hunger in Maine.

The report, "Hunger Pains: Widespread food insecurity threatens Maine's Future," was released Feb. 10 by the Good Shepherd Food Bank and Portland's Preble Street agency and featured in stories by both the Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News.

The report's authors used a 2,000-person survey and in-depth interviews conducted by Preble Street staff and the USM students to examine why food insecurity persists.

The survey found that food pantries are not only busier than they were last year, with 59 percent of those surveyed saying they use pantries more than they did a year ago, but 87 percent are aiding households with either children or adults who are either senior citizens or have a disability.

"The study says 25 percent of those surveyed said they had been dropped from the state's Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program in the last year, either because of policy changes that have reduced eligibility, problems with paperwork or scheduling necessary appointments, or increased earnings," the Press Herald reported.

Michael Hillard, an economics professor and the executive director of USM's new food studies program, supervised the USM students.
The report reveals structural causes of food insecurity, Hillard told the Bangor Daily News.

"Thirty-two percent of Greater Portland industries pay employees $10 to $12 or less," Hillard told reporter Kathleen Pierce.

"The report demonstrates the extent and nature of the problem," Hillard told the newspaper. "When the economy recovered after the Great Recession, Maine didn't."

Read the Bangor Daily News story, "New report lays out why so many Mainers go hungry" by Kathleen Pierce, here.

Read the Portland Press Herald story, "Maine’s high hunger rate persists even as national rate falls" by Randy Billings, here.