Andover continues to struggle to address food insecurity, according to speakers at a panel discussion at Memorial Hall Library Monday.
“You would think the town of Andover sort of has a reputation for maybe not being a population that has a larger number of food insecure residents,” said Ellen Townson, Andover’s liaison to the regional food insecurity task force. “But I think Andover has changed a little bit. And I think that food insecurity is not always very obvious.”
Nearly one-in-ten Andover residents identify as food insecure, with about 1,160 of 3,193 people eligible for but not enrolled in SNAP, the state’s food assistance program. The number of residents enrolled in SNAP has increased by 20 percent since the panel discussed efforts to address the problem last year.
Jennifer Leman, the Chief Policy Officer for Project Bread, attributed the increase to rising food bills more than local efforts to address the so-called “SNAP gap.”
“I know for myself, I look at my grocery bill, and it’s dramatically different from what it was a year ago,” Leman said. “The SNAP gap…is what is very distressing to us.”
Meredith Moody of the Andover food insecurity team, said the team can walk people “through 90 ercent of the SNAP application.”
“It can be a daunting application,” Moody said. “So it’s really helpful to have the folks who work our counselors on our hotline who do this day in and day out and are really familiar with it and can talk about not only the application for SNAP, but while you’re doing that, any other resources that are available to you.”
How To Help, Where To Get Help
- The Robb Center and Cormier Youth Center have social workers on staff who can help people find resources.
- The Merrimack Valley YMCA runs several programs to address food insecurity, including a mobile food pantry.
- Ballard Vale United Church runs a 24-hour food pantry. The church also works with Neighbors In Need to distribute Christmas dinners.
- FoodPantries.org maintains a list of Andover-area food pantries.