Innovative state program has provided more than $10 million in healthy food for low-income families
Families across Massachusetts will have better access to fresh, healthy, local produce, and farmers will be able to sell more of what they grow, now that Governor Baker has signed Massachusetts’ fiscal year 2020 budget, which includes $6.5 million for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP).
HIP matches the value of purchases of fresh, healthy, local fruits and vegetables when SNAP recipients use their monthly benefits to purchase these products directly from Massachusetts farmers at farm stands, farmers’ markets, mobile markets, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms, up to a monthly limit depending on household size. The program helps improve health outcomes in some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable communities, and increases sales for Massachusetts farms, who support the local economy by creating jobs and purchasing local goods and services.
“Freshly grown and nutritiously rich foods are important for my good health,” said Jeanne Cronin, a HIP shopper from Cambridge. “As an elder (77+) I pay close attention to what I eat. With HIP I benefit from buying the best locally grown fruits and vegetables available. And the money I spend at my local farmers’ market directly supports my local farmers. The win-win symmetry of that exchange is very important – I enjoy delicious food and help keep our local farms growing. I am grateful for the extra help I get from HIP and the efforts of the MA Food System Collaborative and the state legislators’ and Governor Bakers’ support in keeping HIP funded for the coming year and beyond. It is the best state-supported program I have ever participated in.”
"We enjoy being able to use our HIP benefits at our local Farmers Markets,” said Adrienne Brown, a HIP shopper from Mattapan. “My children are 5, 3, and 1 years old, who look forward to hearing the process of how the plant grew and also getting to taste the fruits and strawberries. My son Emmanuel (3 y.o.) says "Mommy, Mommy!, Look at all the fruits are here to make a fruit salad!" Apart from the farmers there are many vendors who are in attendance to demonstrate healthy eating. I appreciate the HIP program and the benefits it has given my family and friends, such as engaging with the community.”
More than 57,000 households participated in HIP in the program’s first two years of operation, and earned over $10 million in incentives. That meant more than $10 million in earnings for the more than 200 farms and farmers’ markets that participate in HIP. “I believe that good healthy food is meant for all and the health benefits of such are undeniably positive,” said Jesse Foppema, of Foppema’s Farm in Northbridge. "At Foppema's Farm we strive to grow a large variety of fruits and vegetables. We have always had a great customer base and I'm happy to say that it has grown now to the HIP program. Since the program began we have benefited from the additional revenue stream and are growing specific crops to sell to customers of the HIP program that we otherwise would never be growing. We are happy to be a part of the program and are looking forward to serving these communities going forward.”
Launched in April 2017, HIP is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), in partnership with the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) and the Department of Public Health (DPH), and is supported by a network of agriculture, food access, and public health stakeholder organizations.
Representatives Hannah Kane, Dan Donahue, and Senator Anne Gobi were leaders in the legislature’s effort to increase funding for the program. The three are among the six co-chairs of the legislature’s Food System Caucus, which made passage of this funding a priority. The success of HIP was identified as a priority in the 2015 Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan (mafoodsystem.org/plan/), a comprehensive food system plan developed for the State.
The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative (mafoodsystem.org) is a network of Massachusetts food system stakeholder organizations, working to promote, monitor, and facilitate implementation of the Plan. More information about HIP can be found at http://mass.gov/hip/ and http://hipma.org