Poor customer service by an understaffed state agency is hindering efforts by Massachusetts to improve its food stamp participation rate, which is the lowest in the nation.Project Bread, the leading Massachusetts statewide anti-hunger advocacy group, in November launched a new website. It provides, for example, the organization's 2005 Status Report on Hunger in Massachusetts:
The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, which administers the federally funded food stamp program, is both understaffed and zealous in its verification procedures, a combination that advocates for the needy say looks lean and mean on paper and can be daunting for a food stamp applicant who is typically poor and in crisis.
The most recent national data indicate only about 43 percent of the people who qualify for food stamps in Massachusetts receive them. Nudging the rate up to 66 percent would bring in at least $80 million more in federal support.
This year's report, the third of its kind, reveals high levels of hunger in our state, especially in low-income communities. According to the Status Report, in low-income neighborhoods one child in three lives in a family unable to meet its basic need for food. This rate of hunger is four times the statewide average. Project Bread works especially hard to serve these communities.