Study attaches high cost to hunger, food insecurity

From dialysis treatments to special attention in the classroom, costs pile up for those who may be ailing because they are hungry or unsure how they will get their next meals. A study publicized Tuesday pegged the total cost of hunger and food insecurity in Massachusetts at $2.4 billion.

“That’s a staggering amount,” said Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank. She said, “There is no reason anyone in our state should go hungry.”

The study assembled by Children’s HealthWatch, a program of Boston Medical Center, tallied up the costs of care for diabetes, rheumatology and pulmonary diseases, among other ailments associated with food insecurity. Poor nutrition can also result in needs for special education, according to the study.

“If you don’t eat enough, you’re not ready to learn,” said Ana Poblacion, a researcher who worked on the study. Special education costs made up $520 million of the total cost of hunger in Massachusetts, a state of 6.8 million people where 10 percent of households lack the resources to afford enough food.