Even as the economy in Massachusetts opened up for summer, job growth remains slow, and food insecurity is still at alarmingly high levels.

Catherine D’Amato, executive director of the Greater Boston Food Bank, told Boston Public Radio on Monday the numbers "continue to be very striking," with around 1 in 6 of every Massachusetts resident experiencing food insecurity. Before the pandemic, the numbers were closer to 1 in 12.

“In that number, a sizeable group — over half — were not utilizing federal programs” like Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program, or SNAP, because “they didn't believe they were eligible,” she said.

The Greater Boston Food Bank conducted a survey in May and found that a significant number of people experiencing food insecurity had never sought assistance before. D’Amato said she even saw people who felt they weren’t eligible to utilize a food pantry in their own community.

Beyond more effective informational outreach, D’Amato said that more work could be done to reform the patchwork of federal and state programs in order to make accessing public benefits easier.

“It’s a complex system, that is so ingrained right now, it’s going to take some advocacy and some hard work on our side and others,” she said, noting growing support for a universal application for nutrition-based benefits, from SNAP to the Massachusetts Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program and everything in between.

While D’Amato said some gains had been made in providing food to residents since the start of the pandemic, but the rise of the delta variant of COVID-19 is creating a lot of fear and uncertainty.

“This delta variant is really causing a lot of fear and a great deal of — it’s an odd way to say it — but it’s stabilizing the need,” she said. “The need is not declining in a significant way.”

As the pandemic continues to upend the economy, D’Amato said leaders at the local, state and federal level need to invest in nutrition programs.

“The opportunity with ARPA [American Rescue Plan] money coming into our state and into every city and town ... is an opportunity we cannot pass up,” she said. “How do we try to work together to take this once in a lifetime opportunity before us to invest billions of dollars into food security?”