Jon Eriquezzo is having trouble getting the food he needs through national supply chains to deliver nutritious meals to seniors and people who are homebound, and as president of the Hillsborough Meals on Wheels, that’s a problem. But locally, at food pantries and farms, he’s seeing an excess supply.
Food pantries, meanwhile, have been turning away deliveries because they don’t have the storage space and the food isn’t moving off their shelves fast enough, say state employees who administer an emergency food program.
But this excess doesn’t mean the state has solved its hunger and food insecurity problems, according to advocates. They point to the nearly 80,000 people who reported not having enough to eat in the last seven days in Census Pulse data from early February, numbers that have swollen by 30,000 since last September. This comes at a time when one in four people are having trouble paying for basic household expenses.
“It’s not that people don’t need,” said Laura Milliken, executive director at New Hampshire Hunger Solutions.
Advocates like Milliken are concerned that federal aid programs aren’t being used as much as they should, which means people who need help aren’t getting it. Participation in those programs is low, said Milliken. She pointed to SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, which is at a 10-year low in terms of participation and has continued declining during the pandemic without a clear explanation why. “We’re not honestly 100 percent sure why that is,” she said, although she noted that the state hasn’t made helping people access the program a priority for years.