March is National Nutrition Month, an opportunity to highlight the critical role of nutrition in good health. While access to healthy foods is essential for optimal health, many people in Massachusetts suffer from food insecurity, meaning they regularly struggle to have enough food for themselves and their families. Food insecurity can lead to health issues that impede a person’s ability to lead a full life—consequences that also impact health care costs and the economy. In Massachusetts, 1 out of 9 people are food insecure. For children, the numbers are even greater with 1 out of 6 being food insecure. To end food insecurity in Massachusetts it necessary to make healthy foods both affordable and accessible, which is why MPHA is working to close the “SNAP Gap” and to launch the Massachusetts Food Trust.
The SNAP Gap refers the number of people in Massachusetts who are eligible for SNAP but are not currently receiving SNAP benefits, approximately 680,000 people. MPHA is co-leading a campaign with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute to close the SNAP Gap. By working with the Administration to create a common application portal for core food, healthcare, and other safety-net programs, we can streamline the application process for these benefits and make it easier for eligible seniors and families to apply and start receiving benefits. To see what the SNAP gap is in your city or town, or by legislative district, check out this interactive map.
Over 1 million Massachusetts residents also lack access to healthy foods due to limited access to grocery stores. The Massachusetts Food Trust, established in law in 2014, will provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to new and expanded healthy food retailers and local food enterprises. The Massachusetts Food Trust, which received a funding authorization last year in 2016 but is still yet to be launched, will increase the number of healthy food enterprises and jobs in low and moderate income communities, helping to provide access to many struggling seniors and families.