THE NEW ENGLAND ANTI-HUNGER COMPACT

New England is one of the most geographically diverse regions in our country.  People of this region live on beautiful coastal plains or in vibrant cities, while others live on snowy mountains or on working farms.  Many choose small-town life, having lived in the area for generations, while others move here for our way of life and sense of community.  Even within our cities such as Boston, Burlington, Hartford, Portland, Providence, and Manchester there is a strong sense of community and belonging.  Together, we make it through snowstorms, hurricanes, drought, and losing streaks.  Our people work hard, are not afraid to struggle for their livelihoods, and have the democratic spirit of our ancestors who governed the states at their town meetings.  

In region so rich in history, educational opportunities, and community, it is hard to understand how the problem of hunger and malnutrition has become an epidemic, with 1 in 17 households reporting food insecurity. Of the 14.7 million people living in New England, approximately 2 million live in food insecure households and 500,000 of those are children.  The high cost of utilities, housing, and transportation put basic human needs out of reach for our neighbors, especially when so many rely on seasonal employment, whether it is picking berries or running ski lifts.  New England is also experiencing a rapidly growing senior population with 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day in the U.S. while there is little or no additional support for safety-net programs or health care resources to care for them.

Charitable food organizations, faith communities, and concerned community members are calling on our federal, state, and local officials to work to address this need. During this time of transition in leadership at the national, state, and local levels, it is appropriate to take stock of where we are, review our successes as well as our challenges, and plan for the future.  Government at all levels has a responsibility to ensure that people have enough food for a healthy and productive life.  New England is poised to lead the nation in these efforts, as it has done historically on so many issues related to justice and equality.  

Hunger is one of the greatest injustices facing New Englanders today.  At the same time our region is rich with assets to solve this problem, with 20% of our Congressional Delegates serving on the Congressional Hunger Caucus, outstanding food security advocates in our states, and a strong sense of community across state lines within the region.

The following statement of shared principals and recommendations was drafted by six anti-hunger advocates from New England, representing each state and over 80 collective years of service fighting hunger.  The goal of this document is to share our collective vision, grounded in our shared values, and to ask all elected officials in the New England region to align with these statements when making policies that impact our people’s food security. We are asking all New England elected officials to join us in our efforts to end malnutrition and hunger so that generations of our people can thrive, whether they choose a life in an urban neighborhood, on the ocean, or a hilltop.  We invite you to join us to ensure everyone in New England has access to adequate nutrition.

Sincerely,

Hunger Free Vermont, End Hunger Connecticut, New Hampshire Hunger Solutions, Preble Street’s Maine Hunger Initiative, Massachusetts Law Reform, and University of Rhode Island Feinstein Center for a Hunger-Free America

We are unified in our belief that government is the most effective way to ensure the well-being of its people. Together, to end hunger and malnutrition in New England, we believe:

#1: Strong federal nutrition programs reduce hunger and health care costs, boost the economy, and improve access to healthy food for all low-income New Englanders.

#2: The New England region has the opportunity to make significant strides in ending hunger when advocates, governors, state legislatures, and our congressional delegations work in alignment to advance strong anti-hunger policy.

#3: By nurturing and replicating policies that reduce hunger we help people move to independence and self-sufficiency thus lessening the dependence on social programs.

As a New England region of united anti-hunger advocates we urge elected officials at every level to align with these shared strategies:

#1: The SNAP program is our nation’s most effective response to hunger.  Advance policy that strengthens the program and work to prevent policy that undermines the program’s efficacy.

#2: Child nutrition programs are an investment in the future of New England.  Continue investment and expansion of child nutrition programs for the health and future success of our kids.

#3: Strong nutrition programs coupled with a strong economy can end hunger in New England.  Support and protect policies that put people on a long-term path to sustained food security.


Conclusion:

All of us contributing to this compact are asking, you, our local, state, and congressional representatives to stand strong, as you always have, in the face of extremists who seek to limit programs and policy that feed our people.  New England representatives have a strong history of voting together on issues impacting our residents despite party lines. We urge you to continue this tradition of bipartisanship, especially when it comes to the health and well-being of the people in our states.  Know that you have hundreds of passionate and talented advocates behind you and at your service to continue the drive to end hunger and malnutrition in all New England states.  

Authors:

Marissa Parisi, Hunger Free Vermont

Pat Baker, Massachusetts Law Reform

Erin Allgood, New Hampshire Hunger Solutions

Lucy Nolan, End Hunger Connecticut

Kathleen Gorman, Rhode Island Feinstein Center for a Hunger-Free America

Donna Yellen, Preble Street’s Maine Hunger Initiative