Massachusetts Designating Millions to Combat Pandemic Induced Food Insecurity

July 23, 2020 by Reece Nations

As part of a $36 million food security program, Massachusetts’ executive administration unveiled $3 million in grants for residents suffering from urgent food instability due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced Wednesday the funding will come as part of the state’s new Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program.

Additionally, the administration revealed 39 new vendors selected for the state’s “Healthy Incentives Program”, which provides benefits for SNAP households that purchase produce from local marketplaces. The vendors were selected based on their ability to serve areas designated as “food deserts”, communities of color, older populations and SNAP clients disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“During this pandemic, Massachusetts’ food supply chain has faced significant challenges and there is an urgent need for food security to support our most vulnerable residents,” Baker said in a statement. “This new funding is a $3 million investment in the infrastructure we need to continue to respond to the impacts of the pandemic, while creating a system that provides more equitable access to nutritious, local food in the Commonwealth.”

SNAP clients shopping with HIP vendors will receive $1 back on their EBT card for each dollar spent on eligible food items until they reach their monthly limit, according to the program’s webpage. The vendors are comprised of farmers markets, community supported agriculture farm share programs, mobile markets and food stands.

“Increasing food security and the resiliency of our food system is essential to protecting public health and local jobs,” Polito said in a statement. “Our administration’s new grant program will help ensure the Commonwealth’s farmers, fishermen, food banks, and other food businesses can continue contributing to our economy and connect fresh, local food with Massachusetts residents.”

The funding has been designated based on recommendations from the administration’s Food Security Task Force, created to make healthy food items from local vendors readily available for families and individuals. This is the first round of program funding, with more grants expected to follow suit.

Twenty-six grant awardees are now able to apply the funds towards investments in equipment, technology and capacity increases that will assist producers in distributing food to insecure communities. Applications for the grant program will be evaluated through Sept. 15 of this year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the food system,” John Lebeaux, commissioner of Massachusetts’ Department of Agricultural Resources, said in a statement. “These Food Security Infrastructure Grants will help to strengthen the resiliency of Massachusetts’ farmers and fishers, and better connect locally grown and produced food products with the Commonwealth residents most underserved by healthy, fresh food options.” 

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