This morning, we held a panel discussion on Food Insecurity and Minimum Wage at the Bangor Public Library. The panel shared stories of the effects of food insecurity, hunger, SNAP (food stamps), minimum wage. Here are some highlights:
Chris Hastedt, Public Policy Director at Maine Equal Justice Partners:
- From 2011 to 2016, Maine has had the biggest drop in SNAP users of any state, although food insecurity has increased in Maine while improving in every other state. Maine went from 12th worst for food insecurity to 9th worse, and we are 3rd in the nation for very low food security, which is defined as food insecurity with hunger.
- The current state administration has instituted policies that negatively affect families receiving SNAP, some of which include the asset test targeting seniors and the disabled; refusal of the waivers available for the 3 month requirement, impacting those who are unable to find a job after 3 months; and the photo ID requirement, requiring travel to a DHHS office for all, impacting the disabled, seniors and those who cannot afford transportation.
- DHHS offices are severely understaffed and overloaded with cases, extra paperwork because of the requirements placed on SNAP recipients, and changes in systems.
- Her family lost SNAP benefits when her husband got a small raise. Because his income fluctuates due to commission, she has to regularly provide documentation of income to DHHS, and their eligibility for SNAP is not steady.
- Nicole has received conflicting information from different DHHS employees directly impacting their benefits. She has had paperwork lost by DHHS and had to provide them with multiple copies, and had difficulty contacting them by phone with very long hold/wait times. DHHS employees have treated her with judgment and disrespect.
- Nicole has had to take a job in order to feed her family after SNAP was cut. It is very important to Nicole and her husband that one of them is present to care for their two year old, and they do not want to place their child in full time day care. Despite having a college degree, Nicole was forced to take a minimum wage job – the only job that fit with her schedule.
- Discussed the struggle on a day to day basis on how to pay bills when you work for minimum wage. When you’re working paycheck to paycheck, and unforeseen expenses come up, there is no way to get caught up, let alone get ahead. She was not able to afford to eat at the restaurant where she worked.
- Those working minimum wage jobs are a diverse crowd – restaurant workers and wait staff, home care workers, retail, people with a felony in their past that are excluded from many other jobs for which they may otherwise qualify, students, those recovering from a layoff, and more.
- Carmine has a college degree and is currently working on her masters; do not judge people making minimum wage, because you do not know their story.
- Working for minimum wage is just survival; it’s not living.
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs says that the very basic needs of food (etc.) must be met before any other needs can be fulfilled. If you’re hungry, you are not able to reach your full human potential.
- Hunger – malnutrition / lack of calories, and/or obesity / lack of healthy calories – causes long-term effects on the neurological brain development of children.
- Food insecurity adds extra stress to whatever other stress people feel, which can have negative health effects.
- Explained some of his work with Faith Linking in Action and Food AND Medicine, looking upstream at the root causes of hunger.
- Discussed how personal his work is with the Ecumenical Food Pantry at the Hammond Street Congregational Church, and how food is a basic human right.
- Minimum Wage increase affects not only those making minimum wage, but the many workers making just above. Sarah discussed other impacts of the minimum wage on Mainers.
- 1 in 5 Maine workers live in poverty
- 1 in 3 Maine workers will benefit from the minimum wage increase
- 65,000 children have at least one parent who will benefit from the minimum wage increase.
- Tied all of today’s speakers to the fact that food is a basic human right.
- Gave a few passages related justice, and explained that the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths all call for justice.
- We have an obligation to ensure that we help the poor, the oppressed and the less fortunate.
WABI TV5 / CBS