The Baker-Polito Administration announced nearly $3 million in grants to address urgent food insecurity for Massachusetts residents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and make the Commonwealth’s food system more resilient.
This funding is being awarded as part of the first round of the new $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, created following recommendations from the Administration’s COVID-19 Command Center’s Food Security Task Force, which promotes ongoing efforts to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have access to healthy, local food.
The Administration also announced the first round of new vendors for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), funded through $5 million in additional funds recommended by the Food Security Task Force. Thirty-nine new vendors were selected based on their ability to respond to the needs of populations and communities most significantly impacted by the pandemic including communities of color and older adults, serve areas designated as food deserts or low-access areas, and reach SNAP client populations disproportionally impacted by COVID-19.
Governor Charlie Baker said, “During this pandemic, Massachusetts’ food supply chain has faced significant challenges and there is an urgent need for food security to support our most vulnerable residents. This new funding is a $3 million investment in the infrastructure we need to continue to respond to the impacts of the pandemic, while creating a system that provides more equitable access to nutritious, local food in the Commonwealth.”
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said, “Increasing food security and the resiliency of our food system is essential to protecting public health and local jobs. Our Administration’s new grant program will help ensure the Commonwealth’s farmers, fishermen, food banks, and other food businesses can continue contributing to our economy and connect fresh, local food with Massachusetts residents.”
The Food Insecurity Infrastructure Grant Program was announced in May 2020 as part of a $56 million investment by the Baker-Polito Administration to combat urgent food insecurity for Massachusetts families and individuals as a result of COVID-19. The Administration also announced $12 million for the provision of 25,000 family food boxes per week through a regional food supply system, and $3 million in funding as an immediate relief valve to food banks.
COVID-19 Command Center Director and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said, “The Command Center’s Food Security Task Force has been pursuing strategic investments to bolster the food system and provide emergency supplies to meet residents’ immediate needs. These investments are targeted to support organizations across the Commonwealth in producing and supplying food to communities in need, and will help strengthen the system that has been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond.”
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said, “This ongoing crisis has highlighted the importance of ensuring that the food grown and produced here in Massachusetts reaches all our residents, especially vulnerable populations and those struggling with food insecurity. This grant program provides a great opportunity to strengthen our diverse food system, allow for greater access to local food in a way that supports customer and worker safety, and address systemic inequities around access to fresh, local food.”
Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the food system. These Food Security Infrastructure Grants will help to strengthen the resiliency of Massachusetts’ farmers and fishers, and better connect locally grown and produced food products with the Commonwealth residents most underserved by healthy, fresh food options.”
The Administration also launched a food assistance decision tree, to help residents in need determine which programs they might be eligible for. This tool can be accessed at mass.gov/findfoodhelp.
Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program
The goal of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program is to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have access to food, with a focus on food that is produced locally and equitable access to food. The program also seeks to ensure that farmers, fisherman and other local food producers are better connected to a strong, resilient food system to help mitigate future food supply and distribution disruption.
The first round of the grant program includes 26 awards totaling $2,941,838 to fund investments in technology, equipment, increased capacity, and other assistance to help producers distribute food, especially to food insecure communities. When evaluating the applications, considerations included equity, economic impact and need, sustainability and scalability of efforts, and ability to support producer readiness to accept SNAP and HIP benefits.
Applications will continue to be evaluated on a rolling basis through September 15, 2020. Eligible grantees include entities that are part of the Massachusetts local food system including production, processing and distribution, the emergency food distribution network, Buy Local, community and food organizations, school meal programming, urban farms and community gardens, non-profits, and organizations that provide business planning, technical assistance and information technology services. The Request for Responses for project proposals is available here.