January 27, 2022
On Tuesday, Governor Baker proudly proclaimed in his State of the Commonwealth Address: “Our food insecurity programs served millions of residents across the Commonwealth and brought together partners and providers, ranging from foundations to farmers’ markets to food banks. The knowledge gained has created new, permanent investments and better approaches to supplying and distributing food to those who need it.”
But on Wednesday the Governor released his budget for the next fiscal year, proposing to slash spending on one of those food insecurity initiatives to the point where it would reverse that progress. His proposal notes that the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) is anticipated to provide more than $16 million of healthy food to people who need it this year, but suggests allocating just $5 million to it over the next year.
HIP is a vital program for the almost 1,000,000 Massachusetts residents who rely on the federal SNAP program for food each month. It provides these individuals with additional resources to purchase fresh, healthy, local food directly from Massachusetts farmers. This not only helps improve health outcomes for some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents, it also helps sustain farms which, in turn, contribute to the state’s economy and protect natural resources.
The state has invested $47 million in the program over the past five years, making a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of farms. This proposal to cut one of the most innovative and successful initiatives of his own administration represents a tremendous missed opportunity to build on the progress that the state has made in developing and growing this program, which has served as a model for many other similar programs now operating around the country.
“It’s time for us to invest in Massachusetts families,” said Governor Baker in his address. “To give them back some of the tax revenue they created through their hard work.” We agree, and supporting HIP is one of the best ways to do so. Hunger remains unacceptably high in the Commonwealth, with more than a 10% increase in SNAP enrolment since last year at this time, and farms continue to struggle to remain sustainable. A fully-funded HIP can play a role in reversing these trends.
The more than 300 organizations, businesses, farms, and institutions which are members of the Campaign for HIP funding look forward to working with the Legislature and Governor Baker to reversing this proposed cut and ensuring that the program receives $20 million in funding for FY23, enough for the program to continue to grow, and to add new famer vendors to serve areas of Massachusetts that have yet to benefit from the program.
The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative (www.mafoodsystem.org), has led the Campaign for HIP Funding (www.hipma.org) for five years. For more information, contact Winton Pitcoff (email@example.com) or Rebecca Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org).