After a year of record low unemployment figures, the percentage of Maine households facing food insecurity remains above the national average.
According to new figures released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14.4 percent of Maine households between 2015 and 2017 were classified as food insecure, while 6.4 percent of those households qualified as "very food insecure," meaning that people in those homes reported running out of food, skipping meals and going hungry.
"What these numbers tell us is that the unemployment rate, especially in a place like Maine, really masks a lot of the issues that are going on,” says Clara McConnell, the director of Public Affairs with Good Shepherd Food Bank.
McConnell says the latest numbers show a 1.4 percent decline in food insecurity from the previous two-year survey period from 2013 to 2015, but Mainers, she says, are still struggling. One factor, she says, is their reliance on seasonal, part-time, and lower wage jobs. In fact, she says that many of the clients who access the food bank are employed.
"One in seven Maine households is struggling to access enough food, and that is far higher than the national average still,” she says. “And at this point we're ten years out from the Great Recession, and the food insecurity rate in Maine is finally starting to fall, but we still haven't reached pre-recession levels."
Maine ranked as the least food secure state in New England, followed by Rhode Island with 12.4 percent and Connecticut at 12.2 percent. New Hampshire had the lowest rate of food insecurity at 9.4 per cent.
The national average was 12.3 per cent, with 4.8 percent of families experiencing very low food security.