Governor Deval L. Patrick
Hunger Summit Remarks
March 27, 2008
As Delivered

transcript icon Learn more about the Hunger Summit

Secretary Bigby

Today provides a unique opportunity to discuss proper nutrition and food security. We must work collaboratively to promote healthy life styles and diets. Ironically, I just came from an event at the Massachusetts Medical Society where I gave a speech this morning on the topic of obesity. And while people may not understand that there is a relationship between food, security, and obesity; just think about what some of our communities face. There is an abundance of cheap, high calorie, low nutritional value food in low income communities and it is no surprise that it is those communities that have the highest rates of hunger and the highest rates of obesity.

So connecting the dots is very important and we have to think about the things we must do to correct both of these problems. Among all else, healthy lifestyles and diets are vital to addressing chronic disease but more importantly is important that we have healthy nutrition and children who are not hungry if they are going to be ready to learn and then become productive citizens of our Commonwealth and important members of our work force.

Our state agencies and providers are committed to improving health outcomes by making sure that the nutrition benefits and services are accessible to all those in the Commonwealth who need them. I now want to introduce our first keynote speaker, Governor Deval Patrick.

It's honor for me to serve in the cabinet of Governor Deval Patrick. He is committed to assuring that all state agencies collaborate to better benefit the residences of Massachusetts. It is our charge that all of us take to heart, and that each of us brings to work everyday. The Governor also expects us to create partnerships with people and organizations outside the administration, people like you.

Addressing issues of hunger and nutrition takes more then state or federal involvement, it takes businesses, nonprofits, and communities coming together with a shared vision and a desire to ensure that families and individuals across Massachusetts never to have to worry about where their next meal will come from, nor weather they will be able to afford nutritious foods.

The governor is not afraid to ask us to take on hard problems- ones that other entities, other people, have said we already tried to fix that and we didn't do it, it is not possible. We know that with working together in collaboration and taking a bit at a time, anything is possible.

Mayor Menino

We are working with Project Bread, the Boston Medical Center, DTA and others to increase food stamp enrollment at community health centers, the BHA, and public housing developments. But we still need your best ideas and ways to continue to enroll more people in the food stamp program.

We will hear a lot about that today. We can't leave money on the table in Washington while people struggle to put food on the tables in Boston, Billerica, and Brockton. Be revolutionary. Connect to the issues of hunger and public health. Let's focus on ending hunger with healthy eating and access to fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved neighborhoods. We need to work with the hospitals and community health centers to be as affective in enrolling people in food stamps as we are for Medicade.

Be revolutionary in your work toward access to universal school lunch, breakfast, and summer meals programs for Massachusetts schools. Children who can not get a nutritious breakfast often have difficulty concentrating in our schools. They fall asleep and they fall behind. Remember what I said about the Boston Bread riots; the people inspired their leaders to do more. So lets work together to end hunger in Massachusetts.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce one of the Governor's best, one of the leaders herself is revolutionary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. Under her leadership, I just can't say that about her because she is great. Under her leadership, the state is doing so much to connect the dots between health care cost, housing, child care and hunger.

Governor Deval Patrick

My administration has been working to expand outreach for food stamps and other services. Through the efforts of our satellite offices, web-based applications, streamlined certification, and coordination among the state agencies, we have reached more working families; and I am happy to say that say that in the past 15 months we have helped 18,000 new families receive food stamp benefits. It's a step in the right direction. More elders and more people with disabilities are getting benefits and getting them more quickly.

Twenty-eight nutrition projects located throughout the state serve 8.7 million nutritionally-balanced meals to approximately 75,000 elders every year. Meals are provided at approximately 400 sites and more than half are delivered to older adults in their homes. And I want to point out that the success of that program relies on 7,000 volunteers contributing approximately 450,000 hours each year to the Elderly Nutrition Program. And I honor them. Absolutely.

Our efforts in addressing and helping to combat hunger should not be viewed as a discussion about a safety net for individuals or families; it is more then that. Today we begin a discussion about the type of fundamental change that views programs aimed at nutrition and combating hunger as programs that, in their essence, profoundly expand an individuals opportunities, and reflect or ought to reflect our understanding about what it means to be reasonable members of community.

That's what we are working on in all of the work we do in my administration and that is why we have together to convene our first ever Hunger Summit. To bring together the wide-variety of active and concerned individuals and organizations, whom we represent, to talk about and work towards toward solutions on how we can continue to improve our efforts, whether in small or comprehensive initiatives.

I know that government can't solve every problem in everybody's life. I also know that the institutions that you represent cannot do it alone. But we have to work together and we have to elevate the conversation about poverty, about what is holding people back. And stop associating this or encouraging this corrosive association between poverty and fault. I don't know if you looked, just a few years ago we all looked at those images after the catastrophe in Louisiana following the Katrina storm and we saw all those dear folks, some of them standing on roof tops waiting for help, crowed into makeshift shelters or in the dome, struggling and afraid and abandoned. And yet the sad truth that all those folks abandoned on those roof tops after Katrina were abandoned before that storm. We have to call that out and come together to face that reality and acknowledge what it says about our own community and accept that challenge. I know that is why you are here and I am grateful for you for being here. Thank you so much.

Congressman McGovern

Let me, let me begin by stating the fact that is to often forgotten. There are people here in Massachusetts tonight that will go to bed hungry. There are people across the country, in the richest nation the world who will go to bed tonight hungry. And all of you have gathered here today because you want to do something about that today, and for that alone I want to thank you.

Now the face of hunger here at home is not the same face that we usually see on TV. It's not the swollen bellies or the sunken eyes of famine that still devastate so many areas around the world.

Instead the face of hunger is the elderly couple on a fixed income, it is the single mother or father whose energy and housing costs are rising. It is the elementary school child who misses breakfast because he can't to school early enough to eat or doesn't want to be stigmatized among his friends for needing a free meal at school.

Nearly 36 million Americans in America go hungry every year. Twelve million of those are children. These numbers are staggering and quiet frankly should shame every one of us who is in elected office. And according to USDA, the problem is getting worse. More people went hungry in Massachusetts between the years 2003 to 2005 then the previous two years and hunger will only get worse if the economy continues to worsen. The USDA and the US census bureau said that nearly 450, 000 people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts lack adequate food. That's one in every seven people here in Massachusetts. That's the bad news. The good news is this: hunger is a political issue. We have the resources to end it, what we need is the political will to make it happen and that is where you all come in, and that is why today is so incredibly important.

Today I ask every person in the audience to do two things. One, believe we can end hunger in Massachusetts. Two make a commitment to end it.

Massachusetts can and should serve as model for the rest of the country, because the tremendous efforts are already being made across the Commonwealth. We are trying to connect struggling families and individuals to connect with federal food programs and at the same time to come up with other innovated solutions to address this problem. The Department of Ttransitional Assistance is taking steps to make it easier for eligible people to apply for food stamps. Just last month they announced the opening of four full service satellite offices and six food stamp centers to outreaches housed in community based organizations where clients can apply for food stamps as well as other key benefits.

The Worcester Advisory Food Policy Council is creating individual partnerships with groups including the Worcester Public schools, urban farmers, Agriculture Academy, the United Way of Central Massachusetts and Commerce Bank to develop a compressive way to fight hunger.

Food banks like the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts are also taking new approaches to fighting hunger. Not just to relieve it today but to eliminate it long term. Under their Target Hunger Initiative the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has created a four-year plan that includes creating a directory of food services resources, creating an informed motivated grassroots army of people to encourage people to enroll in food stamps and guide them through the process, including clergy, medical personnel, community centers and schools. Improving community infrastructure to increase transportation links to grocery stores, and services establishing and expanding community gardens, farmers markets, and farm-to-school programs. Engaging in advocacy for state, federal, and local policy programs and infrastructure that support local food security and access to good nutrition for all.

Some inspiring things that are going on all across that state. And these are just a few efforts that are happening throughout Massachusetts, and they are all hug steps in the right direction. The people involved in such initiatives should be commented for their work and I hope that we will use this summit to build off these successes. I mean we need to replicate what works all across the state.

But as always there is still a lot more to do. There is a role for everyone. The residents of this great state, the political establishments, the business community, educational institutions, clergy, teachers, lawyers, grocery retailers, farmers, youth, and medical professionals can and must do more. You know it's not enough to say you are against hunger; quite frankly I never met someone who is actually for hunger. No, my friends, this will require coordinated efforts from us all.