Food Bank launches food-insecurity awareness campaign

  • Congressmen Richard Neal and Jim McGovern joined forces with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ Coalition to End Hunger to launch a new campaign aimed at reducing food insecurity in western Massachusetts on Monday afternoon at Holyoke Community College.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Congressman Jim McGovern called hunger “a political condition” as he addressed the audience at Holyoke Community College on Monday afternoon.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

Staff Writer
Published: 9/10/2018 11:35:54 PM

HOLYOKE — For Shannon Yaremchak, an instructor at the Corporation for Public Management, food insecurity remains a looming threat even as she holds a job.

“For today, I am going to be your face of the hungry,” Yaremchak said to a crowd gathered Monday at Holyoke Community College to mark the launch of an initiative to highlight the problem of hunger in the Valley.

After her husband of 12 years abandoned her, Yaremchak said, she found herself living in shelter with only a hotel refrigerator and microwave to use for preparing food, which made providing nutritious meals for herself and her children a significant challenge.

While Yaremchak found ways to work around these obstacles, she noted that not everyone has the skills or resources to persevere in similar situations.

Yaremchak was speaking at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ Coalition to End Hunger’s campaign to promote awareness of and action on food insecurity. The coalition joined forces with Congressmen Richard Neal and Jim McGovern to launch the effort.

According to the Food Bank, 223,821 individuals in the region sought food assistance in the 2017 fiscal year, and approximately one in eight people in western Massachusetts is threatened by food insecurity.

Following a welcome segment, Neal and McGovern addressed the audience gathered at Holyoke Community College to frame the severity of food insecurity in western Massachusetts — an issue, McGovern said, that stems not from a lack of resources, but a lack of widespread movement.

“Hunger is a political condition,” McGovern said. “I say that because we have the resources. We live in the richest country in the history of the world.”

“We have the money, we have the capacity to produce the food, we have the infrastructure,” he continued. “We have everything but the political will to end it, and that’s why this issue is so maddening.”

Julia Sorensen, chief marketing and communications officer at Cooley Dickinson Health Care, said the campaign will initially focus on Hampden County, but aims to ultimately spark broader change in western Massachusetts as a whole.

Using social media strategies and a variety of multimedia materials, Sorensen hopes the campaign can help to mitigate the “gut-wrenching decisions” that people must make when forced to choose between necessities such as food, housing, transportation and medication.

To achieve this goal, the campaign will showcase stories that reveal “how ubiquitous and how pervasive hunger as well as food insecurity is in the four counties,” said Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank.

A central aspect of the campaign is the belief that progress against food insecurity is stunted in part by a lack of understanding surrounding just how pervasive the issue is in society, Morehouse noted.

“We believe most people in society, in particular in this region, have hearts,” Morehouse said. “If we can appeal to their sense of compassion and empathy we can do great things, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com

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