Officials working to address food security, agricultural difficulties

CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – Food security was in the spotlight at the State House on Thursday as officials looked at what can be done to help food banks and pantries, including in western Massachusetts.

The 21st Century Farms Commission was formed by the state legislature to investigate both opportunities and challenges in the Massachusetts agricultural sector and, on Thursday, Western Mass News listened in on their fifth public hearing where representatives from food banks across the Bay State and the public listened and gave testimony. One of those invited speakers was Andrew Moorehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

“All is not quiet out here. It is quite challenging for so many people, so many households, so many farmers,” Moorehouse said.

Moorehouse told us after the hearing that one of the main themes of his testimony was the importance of advancing community food security which means not only making sure households have the food they need, but that we, as a region of western Massachusetts, can also grow the food people need and can afford.

“We know that the climate is changing. We need to be more resilient as a society to be able to overcome these challenges. In order to do so, we have to be able to grow more of the food, distribute produce healthy food. We want to eat in town or cities whether you’re food insecure or not, but if you are, we need to invest more resources into farms that can grow food,” Moorehouse noted.

We also stopped by Rachel’s Kitchen and executive director Jodi Falk. She told us they’ve seen an unfortunate spike in need since the pandemic and explained that food insecurity still hasn’t really declined.

“Right now, we’re at the same high spike as the highest point in the pandemic in terms of hunger,” Falk said.

The increased cost of living, in addition to inflation, has exceeded many people’s salaries.

“The issue is the bar to feed one’s family is getting higher and higher, so you can be middle class and still not be able to afford your home, child’s tuition, whatever it is,” Falk noted.

One of the solutions the commission has proposed involves working to increase food production in New England to 30 percent of all food consumed in the U.S. by 2030., making the state more resilient in terms of overall food production. Morehouse told us the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will continue to work with the commission and government to achieve the goal to end hunger.

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