Time-sensitive – Please act!
SNAP (formerly ‘food stamps’) and HIP.
Did you know the Farm Direct Coop endeavored to accept the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 5 years ago? We were authorized at that time, and have aided families and individuals ever since. Last year a pilot program called the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) was put in place to encourage healthy eating by incentivizing the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farms, farmers markets, and CSA’s. When buying fresh fruits and veggies from farmers, markets, and CSA’s, the HIP program matches SNAP funds ranging from $40 to $120 (individuals/families) and instantly reimburses funds back onto the participant’s card. Thus, extending buying capability, the program ensures participants are getting the healthiest foods available.
The program was scheduled for two years of funding but is currently slated for suspension from April 2018 to July 2018 because it was too successful. What? Yes, the program was wildly successful, and there is a funding gap for 2018. Up to 3.2 million dollars passed into the hands of farmers, markets, and cooperatives in MA last growing season. The population this program is serving is the most vulnerable in MA. Low income, working families, the elderly, and anyone whose income sources are not sufficient to put enough food nor fresh veggies on the table. White pasta is pretty inexpensive, and by comparison, fresh broccoli, peppers or spinach are not.
What can we do?
The email below is from Winton Pitcoff, Director of MA Food Systems Collaborative. The deadline to act is this Thursday, March 1st, 2018
Email: I cannot stress this enough: Every. Call. Counts. The more that the administration and legislators hear from farmers and your customers that this program needs to be consistent in order for it to work, the better chance we have of getting the resources we need to sustain it.
Some steps you can take, in order from easiest to those that require a bit more of a time commitment:
1. If you haven’t already, sign on to the letter in support of Fiscal Year 2019 funding. (FDC has done this!)
2. Call or email the governor’s office at 617-725-4005 and ask to speak to constituent services, or use this form. Explain what the suspension of HIP will mean for your business. Urge them to consider funding in a supplemental budget to fill the gap between the suspension and the new fiscal year.
3. Call or email your legislators (find their contact info here). Explain what the suspension of HIP will mean for your business. Urge them to consider funding in a supplemental budget to fill the gap between the suspension and the new fiscal year.
4. Ask your customers to weigh in about the importance of HIP to their families and communities. Share this link with them. Put it on Facebook, Twitter, your email communications with your customers, whatever works.
5. Come to HIP Lobby Day on 3/1 at the state house. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
6. Invite a legislator to visit your farm or market.
7. Write a letter to the editor or op-ed piece for your local newspaper, explaining the importance of HIP to your farm and your community.
Thank you for doing your part to help MA residents through the continuation of HIP.