Launching and Implementing the Massachusetts Food Trust
Access to healthy food is essential for a healthy life. Unfortunately, more than 2.8 million people in Massachusetts, including 700,000 children and 500,000 seniors, have inadequate access to grocery stores and other healthy food retailers. In response to this need, MPHA helped create the Massachusetts Food Trust Program to provide loans, grants, and business assistance to support new and expanding grocery stores, farmers markets, and other local food enterprises in low and moderate income communities.
With strong support from MPHA and our partners, the Program launched in October of 2018 with $100,000 in operating funds from the Legislature and $1 million in capital dollars from the Baker Administration. Since then, it has awarded both loans and grants to support healthy food projects across Massachusetts. The projects include grocery store expansions, a farmers market, a food co-op, an urban farm stand, and a project aimed at increasing the availability of fresh produce in corner stores. State funds administered through the Program have also leveraged millions of private and federal dollars to spur business creation, drive economic growth, and create strong local job opportunities.
To build on these initial successes, MPHA has helped secure an additional $1 million for the Program in the FY20 capital budget. Looking ahead, we will continue to support this innovative approach to expanding healthy food access, boosting economic development, and creating healthier and more prosperous communities.
Supporting Continued Funding for Mass in Motion
Mass in Motion is a state program that works to lower the risk of chronic disease by creating communities that support healthy eating and active living. Eating better and moving more are powerful ways to stay healthy and prevent chronic disease. Mass in Motion is proven to reduce childhood obesity by working closely with local schools, restaurants, convenience stores and food pantries to offer healthier food and drink options. In addition, Mass in Motion increases access to healthy environments by improving public parks and playgrounds, and creating the conditions for people to move more where they live, learn, work, and play.
Mass in Motion works to ensure that disadvantaged people, who are most at-risk for chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes, benefit from these changes in policies and practices. This ensures that everyone has full and equal access to opportunities that enable them to lead healthy lives.
Closing the SNAP Gap
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enables low-income families to afford healthy and nutritious foods. In addition, SNAP also protects families from hardships and hunger. SNAP can help bridge the gap if a parent loses a job or an unexpected medical expense arises.
The “SNAP GAP” refers to the over 700,000 individuals in Massachusetts who are currently MassHealth recipients and are likely eligible for SNAP but are not receiving the benefit. The average SNAP benefit for a household in MA is $213 per month. Ensuring that as many low-income families as possible have access to adequate food reduces health care costs, improves educational outcomes, and has long-term positive effects on public health.
Providing Sustainability for the Healthy Incentives Program
The Healthy Incentives Program expands benefits for SNAP households who purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables from local farmers at farmers’ markets, farm stands, CSAs, and mobile markets. MPHA has been a strong supporter of the Program since it was piloted in Hampden County in 2011 and 2012, and we helped advocate for its statewide launch in 2017. Since then, the Program has provided more than $13.5 million in sales for local farmers and resulted in consistent increases in the consumption of healthy produce by SNAP recipients. MPHA continues to advocate for funding for this innovative Program, and this year we are also supporting S48/H145, An Act Relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program, which would make the Healthy Incentives Program permanent by enacting it into statute.