Food insecurity is a serious issue across the state of Maine. While the pandemic caused shortages on shelves, lack of employment, and a multitude of other problems, many food assistance programs have been able to help hungry Mainers through these challenges. However, as qualifications for government assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), change and the economy continues to present financial hurdles, many Mainers are struggling to meet basic nutritional needs more and more. Feeding America offers great resources and information on food insecurity, both nationally and statewide.

  • In 2021, buoyed by increased support in federal nutrition programs and generous giving by individuals and businesses, we saw the rates of hunger in Maine drop to their lowest level in more than two decades. But recently a troubling trend has emerged: government assistance has been rolled back and contributions to food banks, like Good Shepherd Food Bank, are down. All this while a recent survey of Good Shepherd Food Bank’s ending hunger partners revealed the need is up by 35%. More people are visiting food pantries throughout Maine, and they’re visiting more often.
  • The number of people who don’t have enough to eat in Maine has been rising for years—but now, new data shows more than half of those who are deemed food insecure also don’t qualify for SNAP and increasingly have to rely on the emergency food network to get by.

Statistics surrounding the hunger problem facing Maine paint a vivid picture of the issue at hand. Unfortunately, more and more Mainers are struggling to meet basic nutritional needs, and this has drastic effects on multiple other areas of life, including work and/or school productivity, relationship maintenance, physical health and/or medical troubles, mental health, and much more.

  • 13% of Maine’s population is food insecure. This means 1 in 8 Mainers struggle to find room in their household budgets for food.
  • 1 in 5 children are facing hunger.
  • In 2022, Maine was ranked 21st in the nation (tied with two other states) and 1st in New England for household food insecurity.
    • Maine was also ranked 18th in the nation (tied with three other states) and 1st in New England for very low household food security at this time.

Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study that was released in May of 2024 confirms what Maine’s hunger relief network has seen in recent years: rising food costs are contributing to higher rates of food insecurity. The rise in our food insecure population is the largest in Maine since before the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic initially caused a sharp spike in food insecurity across Maine communities, multi-pronged public support, including increased SNAP benefits, quickly mitigated the crisis and ultimately led to the lowest rates of hunger in decades before inflation took hold in 2022. Based on trends in the statewide hunger relief network, Good Shepherd Food Bank expects even higher rates of food insecurity as data from 2023 comes to light, as pandemic-era SNAP benefits were rolled back in the first quarter of 2023, compounding the impacts of inflation and reducing household financial security.

The Food Bank also explained that a sampling of data from 40 community food pantries showed double-digit percentage increases in both visits and households served. In partnership with over 600 community organizations in its network, the Food Bank has grown its distribution from 10 million meals in 2010 to over 33 million meals during fiscal year 2023 and is on track to distribute a record of nearly 40 million meals this year, a 19 percent increase from the prior year.

How Can You Help?

It does not take much to make a big difference for those in need across our state. The fight against hunger is not solitary; every bit of help gets us collectively closer to ending hunger in Maine. Volunteering with a local hunger relief organization is always extremely rewarding work, as it provides meals for those in need and is work you know will make a difference. Help pack food boxes, sort food, and/or cook meals for those within the community needing a warm plate of food. Alternatively, host a nonperishable food drive and/or collect funds to benefit a food bank or pantry in your area.

Of course, you can always donate to trusted ending hunger initiatives and organizations, such as our Campaign for Ending Hunger, Good Shepherd Food Bank, Full Plates Full Potential, and any of the ample food banks and pantries across the state. Even a donation of $1 can help provide 2 healthy meals to those in need.