BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration announced over $13.2 million in grants to address urgent food insecurity for residents across the Commonwealth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is being awarded as part of the final rounds of the $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 grants were announced by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides during a visit to Riverland Farm in Sunderland.
“Our Administration is grateful to the food banks, nonprofits, schools and food producers who have stepped up this past year to make sure healthy food gets into the hands of Massachusetts residents, children and communities struggling with food insecurity,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Through this program, we are proud to have awarded over $35 million to help these organizations and businesses address the pandemic and reduce hunger, and build a resilient food system that is better able to serve residents of the Commonwealth now and in the future.”
“As food insecurity has increased during the pandemic, our Administration created this grant program to invest in our local food system and find ways to better deliver quality food to residents and families across the Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “These grants will help create a strong local food chain that supports local businesses while connecting healthy, local food to Massachusetts’ underserved communities.”
The goal of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program is to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have equitable access to food, especially local food. The program also seeks to ensure that farmers, fishermen and other local food producers are better connected to a strong, resilient food system to help mitigate future food supply and distribution disruption.
The final rounds of the grant program include 175 awards for a total of $13.2 million to fund critical investments in technology, equipment, capacity, and other assistance to help local food producers, especially in the distribution of 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. The Administration has now awarded over $35 million to more than 360 recipients.
“By announcing these grants at a local Commonwealth farm today, I want to highlight the critical work Massachusetts farmers, fishers and food producers are doing to connect their nutritious products with the residents who need it most, even as these businesses have faced challenges during the pandemic,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The Baker-Polito Administration is proud of the important efforts this program has funded to reduce hunger and build a better, more resilient, and more local food system here in Massachusetts.”
“The Healthy Incentives Program is a critical tool in our work to address food insecurity, improve food access, and support a resilient food system. HIP not only increases access to local, culturally-relevant food for our most vulnerable residents, but also provides essential economic support to our farms and communities,” said Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Amy Kershaw. “SNAP and HIP continue to be vital supports to many families as we navigate COVID-19 and its economic fallout.
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 closed on September 15, 2020.
This grant program implements the recommendations of the Food Security Task Force, which was convened by the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center in response to increased demands for food assistance. The task force is composed of a broad group of public and private members charged with ensuring food insecurity and food supply needs are addressed during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The Food Security 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 some Massachusetts families and individuals as a result of COVID-19. The Administration also announced a $5 million increase for the Healthy Incentives Program to meet increased demand for local produce and to increase access points that process SNAP and HIP benefits, $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.
In August, the Baker-Polito Administration launched the MassGrown Exchange, an online platform designed to facilitate business-to-business connections within the local food system for products and services. Developed by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), in collaboration with the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), this platform was established to both address COVID-19 disruptions to the local food supply and to serve as a helpful tool and resource for Massachusetts growers and producers in accessing markets beyond the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.
“As a Commonwealth, we must take every possible step to ensure that no one goes hungry,” said Massachusetts Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Working with food providers to improve distribution and storage will increase the supply of fresh, locally sourced food to meet the demand from those who need it most. Furthermore, support for educational programs and community gardens will allow more people and communities to join in this effort in an empowering, self-reliant and sustainable way.”
“Food insecurity has intensified over the course of this pandemic,” said House Speaker Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy). “This state funding will help local organizations, like Quincy Asian Resources and Quincy Community Action Programs in my district, provide healthy food options to those in need of additional support.”
“Individuals and families across the state are being supported by the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program and these grants provide direct support to help those at risk of hunger and those who are working to harvest, grow, and distribute food,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Our fishing, farming, and food producers are fueled by this infusion of funds and that, in turn, helps us all stay healthier.”
“Hunger remains a serious problem in Massachusetts, as the number of people struggling to put food on the table for their families has increased dramatically during the pandemic,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “Fortunately, the Baker-Polito Administration has been working with farms, fisheries, food pantries and other non-profits to ensure the Commonwealth maintains a robust production and distribution chain to address food insecurity issues. The funding being awarded today will help more than 100 organizations across the state expand access to healthy, locally-sourced food for those who need it most.”
“Food security infrastructure grants have brought critically-needed funds to Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester farms, food business, and non-profits that are working to fight hunger,” said State Senator Joanne M. Comerford (D-Northampton). “These grants have strengthened our food system, enabling these organizations to expand their work at a time when food insecurity rates were spiking. I remain honored to have been appointed to the Food Security Task Force which developed this important program and I’m tremendously grateful to everyone at EEA, MDAR, in the Administration and the legislature who collaborated to fund and manage this important effort.”
“I am proud of the legislature’s role in expanding access to local, healthy, fresh food throughout the Commonwealth,” said State Representative Natalie Blais (D-Sunderland). “The tremendous response to the FSIG program shows the need for continued investment. I look forward to working with the Baker-Polito Administration to extend this program to further support our local farms while strengthening our local food systems.”
The awardees for the final rounds of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program can be found here.
–Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
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