If you’ve moved to Maine from away, one thing that’s readily apparent, especially if relocating from an urban area, is that other than Portland, the state has little in the way of cities. Even the greater-Portland metro area has less than 100,000 people, which is small compared to many urban areas in New England and elsewhere.
For lifelong Mainers, however, Portland is the state’s hub, the epicenter of culture, the arts and if you live in many of the rural areas of the state, a destination and a place to spend the weekend. If you’re from points north, living in the western mountains, or in downeast Washington County, coming to Portland and spending the weekend at one of its more upscale hotels, such as the Regency, the historic Eastland Park Hotel, or even the Sheraton, in South Portland, near the Maine Mall, all make for a great weekend getaways.
For folks from elsewhere in Maine, Portland appears urban, chic and a place where everyone is better educated and makes more money. For those of us who know the city, however, today’s report, released by the Alliance for Ending Hunger, indicating that one out of 11 families in Cumberland County faced hunger in 2006.
420 families in Portland and another 430 families throughout Cumberland County were surveyed in compiling the report. For many who have traveled the state, the fact that Portland and Cumberland County would have poverty issues like these, is somewhat surprising. It also deflates the myth that everyone in and around Portland is driving luxury automobiles and living in an upscale townhouse on the water. While that is the reality for some, for many others, hunger and living one or two paychecks away from food insecurity is closer to the truth.
In addition to hunger, families on the margin face accompanying medical problems, diminished quality of life and lost economic potential. The survey did not include Portland’s homeless shelters, which provide food and shelter to hundreds of individuals and indicates the problem is much wider than the survey was able to identify.
While Mainers regularly hear calls for tax relief and vague proposals for education reform, our state still has a long way to go economically, hoping to raise the boats of all its people.