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.
The day, organized by the Collaborative, began with a well-attended briefing held for legislators and staff, with speakers including Liz O’Gilvie, Chair of the Springfield Food Policy Council; farmer Dave Dumaresq from Dracut; and Collaborative Director Winton Pitcoff. Advocates were then tasked with visiting each of the 200 senators’ and representatives’ offices to tell the story of the tremendous impact HIP has had on families, farms, and communities, and to ask for support for the program.
Advocates’ primary message was to ask legislators to support $6.2 million for HIP in the fiscal year 2019 (7/1/18-6/30/19) budget, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Officials recognize the value of the program to low-income families, farmers, the economy, and the environment. A number of key lawmakers are championing the program in budget discussions, stressing the great return on investment HIP can provide, and the important values it represents. Governor Baker’s budget proposal included $1.35 million for HIP, the same amount that the Collaborative and our allies successfully advocated for last year, but since demand has proven to be so much greater than anticipated, more is needed.
Even with support in the legislature, HIP is scheduled to be suspended on April 15 due to a lack of funds. Demand for the program has been so high, with more than $3.8 million in incentives earned in just the first 11 months, that resources budgeted for three years have been exhausted in less than one. Efforts are underway to attach an amendment providing $1.5 million to a supplemental budget currently under consideration, so that the program would not have to be suspended.
The Collaborative’s Campaign for HIP Funding is ongoing. More than 120 organizations and 150 farms and markets have signed on to letters in support of the program, and advocates are still encouraged to urge their networks and members to call legislators. Even lawmakers who know about HIP and don’t need to be convinced of the importance of funding it should hear from their constituents, to reinforce the amount of support for the program. Follow our Facebook page to see updates on when action is needed. For more details about the Campaign, and information about how to get involved, click here.
Farm to School Policy Project