More than 80 advocates, farmers, and SNAP recipients participated in HIP Lobby Day at the Massachusetts State House on March 1, meeting with legislators and staff to educate them about the Healthy Incentives Program and the need for ongoing funding to support it. The Program provides a dollar-for-dollar match for SNAP dollars spent on fruits and vegetables purchased at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs statewide. Every dollar allocated to this program is a direct investment in the health of Massachusetts residents and communities, our local economy, and our natural resources.
On October 1, 2014 the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) began enforcing the Commercial Food Waste Ban, an effort to divert food waste from landfills. MassDEP targeted food waste and other organics in part because it was the largest segment of the municipal solid waste stream. Food and other organics account for well over a million tons a year of the approximately 5.5 million tons of waste Massachusetts disposes of in landfills and incinerators every year.
Massachusetts’ Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program is one of the oldest state farmland protection programs in the country. Enacted in 1977, the program targets the most productive soils and purchases perpetual easements that assure the land will be available for farming for generations to come.
The Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) has far outpaced expectations, with SNAP recipients purchasing more than $2.5 million of fresh produce from local farmers between April and November, and earning an equal amount of incentives in the process. In the first seven months of HIP, 58,000 SNAP clients benefited from the program, exceeding redemption expectations by more than 470%. Nearly 50% of the 33,000 households that have benefited include a senior, and more than 30% include a child.
The MA Food System Collaborative hosted the 2017 Massachusetts Food System Forum in Leominster on November 17. More than 200 people, from farmers to funders, elected officials to nonprofit leaders, looked back at how the food system has become stronger in the two years since the completion of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan and generated ideas on how to work together to continue to move toward the goals of the Plan.