With a state minimum wage of $11 per hour and a high cost of living (according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, in Worcester County, it takes an individual, full-time wage of $16.67 per hour to support a family of four in a dual wage-earning household), 1 in 10 people lives in poverty. And while people living in poverty aren’t the only ones who struggle with hunger, there’s a strong correlation between income and food security. The higher one’s income, the more easily they’ll be able to afford the necessities: housing, utilities, transportation, medicine, food.
This is why Worcester County Food Bank’s advocacy priorities include the $15 minimum wage, says WCFB’s Director of Advocacy, Liz Sheehan Castro. “Many of the people served by WCFB and its Partner Agencies are living at or below the federally-defined poverty level. To solve hunger, we have to solve poverty – and a higher minimum wage is an important step in the right direction.”
WCFB and the Worcester Food Policy Council have joined Raise Up Massachusetts in the ‘Fight for $15,’ championing legislation (H.2365 and S.1004) that would raise the state’s minimum wage by $1 each year over the next four years until it reaches $15 per hour in 2021. Afterwards, the minimum wage would be adjusted each year alongside increases to cost of living.
Says Sheehan Castro, “We know many of the people who visit food pantries are unable to work. They’re seniors, people with disabilities, full-time caretakers. But 20% of households in Worcester County who visit a pantry are working, sometimes two or three jobs, and still not able to make ends meet. For them, this legislation is so important.”