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In Greater Boston, growth of suburban hunger has kept pace with growth in urban hunger
Today, our sister organization Massachusetts Fair Share Education Fund, released Childhood Hunger in America’s Suburbs: The Changing Geography of Poverty, a new report detailing the changing geography of childhood hunger at a time of growing suburban poverty. Download the full report here.
Childhood hunger has changed. Hunger is no longer strictly an urban and rural phenomenon. It affects nearly every community in Massachusetts and across the country. This includes communities that might otherwise think child hunger is a problem that happens ‘somewhere else.’ Our perceptions have to change — and with our perceptions, our policies.
The report measured the number of students newly eligible for the National School Lunch Program – a leading indicator of poverty or food insecurity – between the years 2006-2007 and 2012-2013. It found that the 2008 Great Recession made the risk of childhood hunger significantly worse.
Of students newly eligible for the National School Lunch Program, 48 percent are from the suburbs, 25 percent are from the cities, 15 percent live in rural areas and 12 percent live in small- or mid-sized towns. Of public school students now eligible for free or reduced-price lunch nationwide, nearly one-third now live in the suburbs. Nearly 6.5 million children were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch in 2012-2013, more than the number of children from rural areas and small- and mid-sized towns combined.
In the Boston metro region, free and reduced lunch eligibility has risen from 25 to 32 percent, while suburban eligibility also rose 7 percentage points, from 22 to 29 percent.
“It’s not surprising that the Great Recession has left more children at risk for hunger,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “What you might not expect is that many of those kids aren’t living in the inner cities – they’re living in suburban neighborhoods.”