On July 31, the final day of the legislative session, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed an Environmental Bond Bill that included the creation of the Massachusetts Food Trust Program. A related provision in the bill authorizes $2 million for food ventures in low and moderate income communities. The measure was included in the final conference committee version of the Environmental Bond Bill. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.
After much research and analysis the Massachusetts Grocery Access Task Force and The Food Trust recommended that MA establish a flexible financing tool–similar to those in Pennsylvania, New York, and California–to help increase access to healthy, affordable foods and thereby reduce food deserts in the Commonwealth. Improving access to healthy foods has been a priority of the Act FRESH campaign since 2012 and the Coalition has worked hard to convey grassroots support for the MA Food Trust to the legislature.
We thank Senators Michael Moore, Sonia Chang-Díaz, Linda Dorcena Forry, and Eileen Donoghue, as well as Representatives Dan Donahue and Dan Hunt for their leadership on this issue! The MA Food Trust will increase local retail options for healthy foods (while also creating more local jobs) in low and moderate income communities across the Commonwealth.
And we thank the thousands of advocates who raised their voices together and took action on this issue by signing and collecting postcards, calling and visiting legislators, and spreading the word. Working together, we created the momentum needed to get this bill passed!
Utilizing community development financial institutions (CDFIs) the MA Food Trust Program will provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to support the development, renovation, and expansion of healthy food retailers and food enterprises in parts of the state that need them the most. This could include supermarkets, corner stores, farmers’ markets, and mobile markets that meet local needs, as well as community kitchens, food trust commissaries, indoor and outdoor greenhouses, and food distribution hubs.
Like other policy initiatives, the work to improve access to healthy foods is not over effort is not over, even after Governor Patrick signs the bill into law (as we presume he will). We will still need to push hard to ensure the MA Food Trust is actually funded (remember, that $2million is merely “authorized”) and implemented successfully. We will need your continued support in the year ahead to ensure that MA Food Trust truly makes a difference in the lives of Massachusetts residents.
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