About 13% of Western Mass. residents are food insecure, a rate higher than any other food bank service area in the state.
The Food Bank relies on state and federally funded programs to provide us with approximately 55% of our food. Because of this, advocacy has played an increasing role in our efforts. We lead the community in advocating for change, bringing issues of hunger to the forefront and empowering the community to work towards taking action and developing a solution.
Expanding Federal Tax Incentives for Donated Food
H.R. 2945 and S. 1395.
We cannot afford to let nutritious food go to waste. Feeding America, the national association of food banks, recovers food donations nationally from numerous sources and distributes them among food banks, including The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. At the same time, 70 billion lbs of wholesome food is sent to landfills each year.
Since 2006, demand for food assistance has increased 46% across the country and is expected to remain high as unemployment, food prices, and energy costs continue at record levels. Unfortunately, food from federal commodities and food industry donations are not keeping up with demand. We need to change the business model from disposing of excess food to donating it.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts supports simplifying and expanding the food donation tax deduction in order to maximize donated food while reducing barriers for donors.
In 2006 Congress temporarily expanded the enhanced food donation tax deduction to all business taxpayers. In the restaurant industry alone this led to a 137% increase in the pounds of food donated through Food Donation Connection’s Harvest Program. However, those deductions have expired. Current tax incentives do not reflect changing food industry dynamics – increases in business efficiencies mean less food to donate and more donors selling food to the secondary retail market instead of donating all excess product. The Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Act would help increase the amount of food donated to nonprofits by permanently expanding the enhanced deduction for small businesses and farmers in order to maximize the potential donation opportunity.
Enactment of this legislation would spur increased donations at a time of great need. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts urges legislators to help increase food donations by supporting and cosponsoring H.R. 2945 and S. 1395.
On February 4, Congress passed the Farm Bill, which includes more than $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly food stamps. The cut will affect an estimated 850,000 households nationally and approximately 125,000 in the Massachusetts. The average individual — primarily elders and persons with disabilities on fixed incomes — will lose $90/month in benefits.
Highlights from the nutrition title include the following (figures are 10-year budget numbers):
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will continue to lead the community in the fight against hunger. It is also important for our state and local representatives to understand the impact that their decisions have on the lives of the people whom they serve. You can still play a critical role in effectively communicating our message with decision makers here in Massachusetts.
Your voices and your stories serve as a powerful tool in putting a face to a solvable problem. Let us know the impact that SNAP has had on your life or on the lives of those whom you know or that your agency serves. By sharing your story, you can help us make a difference in our community. We will share these stories with our state legislators this spring as we meet with them to advocate for state funding for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP).
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey, Congressman Richard Neal, and Congressman James McGovern can be reached using Feeding America’s toll-free advocacy hotline: 1-888-398-8702