By Gillian Graham; Portland Press Herald
Food stamp recipients have just gotten the first substantial, permanent boost in monthly benefits in four decades, a change that both they and hunger experts agree is needed to address Maine’s high food insecurity rates and give those in need better access to nutritious food.
The largest single increase in the history of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program comes at a critical time for the state, which has persistent problems with childhood hunger and multi-generational food insecurity. More Mainers regularly go without meals than food-insecure people in nearly every other state.
In a change that began this past Friday, Oct. 1, SNAP recipients will see an average increase of $36.24 per person each month, or $1.19 a day. Proponents say the increase is long overdue.
The previous benefit amount “wasn’t enough for people to get by on, especially when you’re looking at households that have to pay rent or a mortgage or child care expenses,” said Izzy Ostrowski, social change advocate at the Portland-based nonprofit social services agency Preble Street and leader of the Maine Hunger Initiative, which formed in 2008 to address the root causes of hunger in the community. “It’s great that it is happening, but we still need to push for more investments in hunger and food insecurity.”