Supporting healthy families and sustainable farms
Thousands of families that had previously been unable to afford fresh, healthy, local produce were able to purchase fruits and vegetables from Massachusetts farmers in 2017, thanks to the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). The program provides a match for SNAP recipients’ purchases at participating farmers markets, farmstands, mobile markets, and CSAs, instantly returning the amount of the purchase to the user’s EBT card, up to a monthly limit based on household size.
Designed to improve healthy food access and health outcomes for low-income families, and to increase sales and sustainability for Massachusetts farmers, HIP has been a tremendous success in its first year, with more than $3.9 million in incentives earned. That success has posed some sustainability challenges, given that the program was budgeted to provide $1.25 million in incentives over three years. HIP is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), in partnership with the Department of Agricultural Resources and the Department of Public Health, along with a number of community partners that provide technical assistance, education, and outreach.
Recognizing the need for increased funding for the program, the Collaborative brought together a coalition of more than 50 organizations in 2017 and successfully advocated for a commitment of $1.35 million for HIP in Massachusetts’ fiscal year 2018 budget. When the need for more resources became apparent, the Collaborative again led a campaign to provide adequate resources to sustain the program through fiscal year 2019. The campaign has helped individuals, farms, and community organizations tell the stories of how HIP has impacted them, and educate policymakers about the need to support the program.
The Collaborative has taken a leadership role in supporting HIP because it is a unique program that supports all four of the Plan goals. By providing access to fresh, healthy, local food, HIP is helping to improve health outcomes for some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable communities. By increasing sales for Massachusetts farms, HIP is helping to sustain those farms which, in turn, contribute to the local economy by creating jobs and purchasing local goods and services, and protect farmland and natural resources.
Food Access, Security and Health - Recommendation 3.1.2 Fund the FINI-HIP Trust Fund. The FINI-HIP Trust will enable DTA to engage statewide community partners and private funders to accept financial commitments to support the HIP implementation.