Mainers to Pingree: I’ve Feared Where My Next Meal Will Come From
Maine First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree surveyed hundreds of Mainers about food insecurity in advance of White House’s first conference on hunger in 50 years
Maine, August 8, 2022
Tags: Reducing Food Waste
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today shared the results of her constituent survey on hunger in preparation for the White House’s Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health this fall. Of 690 survey respondents, 41% said they have worried about where their next meal will come from. Following a push from Pingree, the Biden White House announced it will convene the first Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health conference in a half century. Pingree will share her constituents’ stories and ideas with the Biden administration this September at the conference.
“This isn’t just a conference – it is an opportunity for the White House to finally address the paradoxical reality that in the wealthiest country on earth, millions experience hunger every day. In 1969, the first-ever White House conference on Hunger encouraged Congress to create the lifesaving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and I am hopeful that the 2022 conference will spark transformative policies to end hunger in America once and for all,” said Pingree. “It’s clear that the Biden Administration is taking this summit seriously because it has asked all members of Congress to reach out to their constituents, collect their stories, and directly convey their experiences to the White House. In answering that call, I surveyed hundreds of Mainers, and I was disturbed how many of our neighbors have grappled with hunger in their lives. I am hopeful the White House will use the experiences of our constituents to push for significant, hunger-ending policy change.”
As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, Pingree secured $2.5 million for the White House Conference on Hunger in the Fiscal Year 2022 spending bill.
Hundreds of survey participants also shared stories of their personal experiences with hunger, as well as ideas Pingree can share with the Biden Administration. A sampling of these responses is below:
“I returned to college as a single mom and had just moved into family housing on campus. I had started a part-time job but had not received my first paycheck, nor had I received the first payment for my financial aid. At that time, it was pay my rent or feed us,” a Windham resident said. “I applied and received food stamps for the 3-week interim. This allowed me to keep a roof over our heads and fed. I am now retired and without this short time support I would not have completed my undergraduate degree and my MBA; gone on to complete my PhD and have a successful career.”
“As a survivor of Stage 4 cancer who had to retire early, I now live on my Social Security benefits. With the price of everything, including my rent going up, I am doing some creative juggling to make ends meet,” a Biddeford woman said. “If my SNAP benefits decrease to pre-pandemic levels, it will be a bit of a struggle to afford groceries. I also worry about my neighbors here in our 55+ low-income building. I'm not sure if everyone here has the ability to get the food they need.”
I was unemployed and had to liquidate some of my retirement funds in order to cover my living expenses. My frugality standard became nine meals from a three-pound chicken (chicken was cheap then): three roast chicken meals, three casserole meals, and three chicken-vegetable soup meals. I also made other meals by combining dried beans with other ingredients to ensure that I was getting enough protein. Governmental programs and schools could do more to help teach people how to create meals that taste good and incorporate good nutrition. I am now retired and have a small garden in my back yard. I grow a wide variety of vegetables, in small amounts, and am able to freeze and store produce to use during the fall and winter,” a resident of Waterville said.
SNAPSHOT OF PINGREE’S HUNGER SURVEY
Click here to read a full text of Pingree’s survey, which was emailed to constituents on July 8 and 13, 2022.
As a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Pingree has made fighting hunger, reducing food waste, and expanding access to healthy food top priorities. Pingree co-founded the Food is Medicine Working Group, cosponsored the Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act, and is the lead sponsor of the Kids Eat Local Act to support local and regional food systems and encourage healthy meal choices among school-aged children.
She has also written several bills to reduce food waste and address hunger, including the Food Donation Improvement Act which would allow companies to donate food to those who need it without fearing liability and the Food Date Labeling Act to ensure Americans do not feel it is necessary to throw out safe, consumable food. In April 2022, Pingree introduced the FIND Food Act to expand existing and create new tax deductions and credits to better incentivize farmers and suppliers to donate food.
Just last month, Pingree was part of a successful bipartisan effort to extend 12 crucial waivers which allow the USDA to feed millions of school-aged children.
Click here to learn more about Pingree’s efforts to reduce food waste.