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Berkshire Forum Focuses on Food Security

The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition held a monthly forum in North Adams gathering area residents, community activists, and members of local government. NBCC executive director Al Bashevkin explains that the purpose of the meeting was to make the public aware of the challenges facing area food assistance programs…

The meeting let representatives from local food pantries introduce themselves to the public, discuss challenges they are facing with an increased demand with a decrease in state and federal funding, and brainstorm new ideas to address those challenges.

Gordon Clark of the Western Massachusetts Food Bank, which serves the four counties of Western Mass, and distributes food to shelters across the region said that funding cuts, particularly within the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program – or MEFAP, are greatly affecting their ability to meet the area’s need.

Clark added that the Western Massachusetts Food Bank is especially in need of foods rich in protein, such as eggs, meats, and peanut butter.

First Berkshire District Representative Gail Carriddi attended the event, and announced that she worked with the House to include more funding for emergency assistance programs in their FY 2013 budget proposal.

The forum also discussed the SNAP program – formerly known as food stamps. Community members talked about how it’s important for area residents to realize that collecting food assistance benefits is not wrong or to be looked down upon.

NBCC executive director Al Bashevkin also noted that many people receiving SNAP benefits in Northern Berkshire County do not recertify themselves, even though they still need assistance.

The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition holds public forums monthly to discuss community issues.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.