It's a sign of how far the state's economy has fallen. In the past three years, the amount of money used to buy groceries with food stamps has almost tripled statewide, and the trend is even more severe in the Newburyport area.
Statewide use of food stamps is up 233 percent from 2006 to 2009. In that period, Vermette's Super Market and Stop & Shop in Amesbury have seen a 287 and 293 percent increase respectively in the amount of redeemed food stamps. Market Basket of Newburyport's numbers have shot up 358 percent, according to information released by the state to Muckrock.com, a citizen-run website that files Freedom of Information Act requests with the government and publishes what they find.
"A lot of people think that in Newburyport we don't have problems like that, but every community does. The need is there and it's very scary," said Eleanor Turke of Pennies for Poverty: 2 Cents 4 Change. While not directly involved in aid, Pennies for Poverty funds grants for local service organizations that help those in need. Turke said the local need is more than they can keep up with and continues to grow.
Representatives of local service organizations say they aren't surprised, as the need is great and growing all the time.
"I've been here since April of 2009, and in that time, I've seen the patronage at our food pantry double; I've seen the number of applicants for food stamps almost double. The need just continues to grow," said Diane Halloran of Community Action in Amesbury.
Halloran said the organization is averaging about five individuals a week who come to them seeking help in filling out the application for food stamps, both people new to the process and those who have done it before and find themselves in need once again.