During Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March) we at MCHPP take extra time to honor the lives and accomplishments of these often-overlooked groups. While this is a time to celebrate hard-won progress, it is also a time for many of us to reflect on the personal and institutional work that still needs to be done to ensure true equity and inclusion in our work, our community, and our country.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, food insecurity has risen dramatically across the nation. In Maine, that number jumped from 13% to 22% or one in five residents. This has impacted countless families and individuals, but it has to be acknowledged that women (specifically single mothers) and communities of color have disproportionately borne this increase. 

Mainers often pride ourselves on our sense of community, but we are not immune to these issues of inequality. For example, the excess percentage of Black children who live in Maine households below the poverty threshold compared with white children is 30.8%. Maine also has the nation’s largest racial disparities in Covid cases; at one point in the pandemic, Black Mainers were 20 times more likely than white Mainers to contract Covid-19. 

People of color and women disproportionately fill jobs that have been classified as essential during the pandemic putting themselves and their families at risk. They are also statistically more likely to live in areas where access to fresh food is difficult. Lacking access to fresh food contributes to high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, which makes people more susceptible to complications from Covid. As a community and as a nation, we have much to do to dismantle the structural racism and gender discrimination that creates these disparities.

Identifying and understanding these race and gender gaps in food insecurity is the first step toward making change. Instead of asking “what do individuals and families in our community need to survive?” we should instead ask “What do ALL people in our community need to thrive?” When thriving is our goal, we set our sights higher.

Let’s get to work!