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CHICOPEE — As schools close for the summer, nearly 27,000 children in Western Mass. face the harsh reality of not having enough food. Despite all Massachusetts students having access to free breakfast and lunch during the school year, the summer months leave many families struggling to fill the gap, relying heavily on the Food Bank’s 180-plus member food pantries and meal sites.  

Every month, the Food Bank provides approximately 1 million meals to more than 100,000 people. Hunger exists in every county across the Commonwealth, with Western Mass. seeing some of the highest levels of food insecurity. Berkshire and Hampden counties rank in the top five, according to Greater Boston Food Bank’s fourth annual statewide report.  

While a significant number of food-insecure households in Western Mass. live above the federal poverty limit, people still struggle to provide enough food for their families. The high costs for rent, mortgage payments, electricity, childcare, and transportation strain budgets and make it difficult for families to afford nutritious food.  

These challenges disproportionately affect single parents, particularly Black and Latino single parents. In addition to the financial strain of operating on a single income, these parents face systemic racism that manifests in employment and wage discrimination, as well as in the physical landscape of their communities. Planning decisions often isolate them from essential resources like full-service grocery stores, childcare, and transportation, further compounding their difficulties.  

“The summer months are challenging for families,” said Jillian Morgan, director of Development for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. “Without school meals, many families must look elsewhere for food assistance. To meet the increased need, the Food Bank has launched a summer hunger appeal to ensure our food-assistance network can meet the demand.”  

With every dollar donated, the Food Bank donates the equivalent of three meals through its network of food pantries and meal sites. By supporting the summer hunger appeal, donors can make a significant impact on the lives of children and families this summer and beyond.  

Visit foodbankwma.org to make a secure online donation. For more information on childhood hunger, visit foodbankwma.org/summer-hunger.