March 28, 2019

Campaign for HIP Funding Ramps Up for FY20 Budget

Lillian Baulding, Food Bank of Western MA

The Campaign for HIP Funding has started off the 2019 budget cycle in full force, with tremendous support from legislators, a great lobby day, and the development of some new tools for advocates. The campaign steering committee has developed a $8.5 million ask for HIP in FY20. This will be enough funding to operate the program year-round, allow for moderate continued growth, and allow a few new farms to become vendors in underserved areas.

HIP Lobby Day 2019 was a huge success, thanks to the more than seventy advocates who attended. A morning State House briefing for legislators and staff featured presentations from several coalition members on their personal experiences with HIP.  Adrienne Brown, a HIP shopper from Mattapan, talked about how her family has been able to eat more of her favorite vegetables, eggplant and callaloo. Chris Kurth, farmer at Siena Farms in Sudbury, has changed his annual crop plan to grow more Asian greens and daikon radishes for his HIP customers, who he’s excited about being able to serve better thanks to HIP. Txong Yang, a farmer at Flats Mentor Farm in Lancaster, has been heard from many elderly customers in his community that the quality and availability of specialty crops is something they haven’t seen since they were children. Mia Kortebein, Program Coordinator at CISA remarked that “The Healthy Incentives Program is changing who the notion of local food is for. Farmers are really proud of being able to serve their diverse communities.” And Erin McAleer, President of Project Bread, reported that their FoodSource Hotline has received more than 9,000 phone calls since the program started on HIP.

Our legislative champions Senator Gobi, Representative Kane, and Representative Donahue also spoke to their colleagues on the importance of HIP, and its benefits to farmers, low-income shoppers, and the wider economy in every district in the Commonwealth. And we debuted a new video that details the story of HIP to support the campaign. Please share the video with your colleagues, members, and friends!

Following the briefing, Representative Paul Mark offered tips to advocates about speaking with legislators, urging them to feel comfortable and confident and reminding them that there has been widespread support for HIP in the Legislature. Then advocates from every corner of the Commonwealth spent the afternoon knocking on doors and talking to legislators and staff about HIP, and distributing popcorn-on-the-cob grown by The Food Project to each office.

Our coalition has grown to more than 300 farms, organizations and institutions. Some of our newest supporters include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, American Farmland Trust, and the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs. All Campaign supporters are listed on each letter we send to lawmakers, most recently to the Committees on Ways & Means. Farms and organizations are welcome to join the coalition by filling out the form here and can reach out to Becca with any questions. 

That broad support has been very helpful in generating legislative support already. Calls and emails from advocates resulted in 76 representatives and 23 senators signing on to letters circulated by Food System Caucus chairs to the Ways and Means Committees supporting $8.5 million in the FY20 budget for HIP. In addition, 89 representatives and 30 senators co-sponsored the enabling legislation to write HIP into law, helping protect the program’s long-term sustainability.

The governor’s budget has proposed $5.04 million for HIP in FY20. The House budget will be released in early April, and Representatives Kane and Donahue will file an amendment to ensure consideration for the full $8.5 million. Watch your email, social media, and the campaign website throughout April as there will be plenty of opportunities for you to contact your state representative to ask them for their support!

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March 2019 Collaborative Newsletter