Two East Boston organizations that have been helping to fight food insecurities in the neighborhood for years were recently awarded a grant from the state to help expand access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at mobile locations.
This week the Baker-Polito Administration announced that Eastie Farm and the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) Farmers Market will join 27 other farms and farmers’ markets in sharing $39,900 in grants to expand local food access points for low-income residents across the state.
The grant will provide Eastie Farm and the Farmers Market with equipment at no cost to facilitate the acceptance of SNAP benefits at their locations.
These additional SNAP access points in Eastie will increase the availability of fresh, healthy food and drive federal dollars into the state’s economy.
“This grant program reflects the Baker-Polito Administration’s commitment to connect Massachusetts households with healthy and culturally accessible food in support of a strong local food system,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “This program builds on the success of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program and the addition of 39 new Healthy Incentives Program vendors as we continue to promote food security across the Commonwealth.”
Both Eastie Farm and the Farmers Market have been on the frontlines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic addressing food insecurities that have long existed but were amplified by COVID.
Eastie Farm volunteers worked through the pandemic’s height providing prepared meals, dairy, and meat to Boston residents and expanding their outreach efforts.
Over at the Farmers Market, administrators expanded the seasonal market that usually runs from the summer through the fall, to include a winter/spring market.
“One of the main reasons we introduced the online Winter/Spring Farmers Market is because we want residents to be able to take advantage of their SNAP benefits and be able to buy healthy produce all year round,” said Market Manager Nancy Slamet. “That is something that we’re really trying to push again this year after a successful season last year.”
SNAP customers at the Farmers Market get extra money through the Healthy Incentives Program, or HIP, to buy fruits and veggies at the market. Those who receive SNAP benefits are automatically enrolled in HIP, which allows Farmers Market customers to earn a dollar-for-dollar match on their EBT card when they buy fresh produce from a HIP-authorized vendor like the East Boston Farmers Market.
“For families of 1-2 people, you can earn up to $40 per month; for 3-5 people, up to $60 per month; for 6 and more people, up to $80 per month so we don’t want people to lose out on these benefits,” said Slamet.
The grant program is offered through the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and with financial support from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“DTA continues to work with our agricultural partners to expand equitable SNAP access points, enabling the over 590,000 households who receive SNAP to buy local food in the communities where they live,” said Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Amy Kershaw.
“This grant program also brings critical economic support into our state’s food system, supporting Massachusetts farmers and their employees.”
Baker-Polito Administration also announced a second round of grant funding started on January 14, 2022. Farmers and farmers’ markets can apply through February 18, 2022. A third application round will open on April 20th for all eligible vendors to apply. Application can be found at /www.mass.gov/service-details/massachusetts-ebtsnap-equipment-grant-program.