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MA Policy Updates

FY15 State Budget Process

Updated April 11, 2014

Great news!

The Ways and Means Committee of the Massachusetts House of Representatives has issued a budget that includes a $1 million dollar increase to the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP)!

Many of you reached out to your representatives to tell them how important this funding is for our region, and they heard you! The House budget will be voted on during the week of April 22. After that, the Senate Ways and Means Committee will issue its budget, which we hope will also contain an increase.

Although this is a very positive first step, more work lies ahead.

Please do two things to help us continue to urge our legislators to fund additional food for our neighbors in need:

  1. Call your state representative to say thank you for their support of increased MEFAP funding.
  2. Call your state senator to ask them to increase MEFAP funding from $14 to $16 million for fiscal year 2015. (The line item for MEFAP is 2511-0105.)

State House Switchboard: (617) 722-2000
Search for your representatives by location.

 

Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP)

Line Item DAR 2511-0105: Increase to $16,000,000

The need for food assistance in Western Massachusetts is steadily increasing, while critical food sources have undergone drastic cuts. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts currently serves over 200,000 people per year through its feeding programs.

According to the 2010 Hunger in America study, 571,600 people statewide are in need of emergency food assistance. The same study showed that over half of emergency feeding program clients must visit emergency programs more than 6 times per year.

  • In the last 5 years, the number of people visiting food pantries has risen 18%. (Nearly 7,000 more people per month in FY2013 than in FY2008.)
  • • During that same time period, however, MEFAP has decreased by 10%. (228,000 fewer pounds in FY2013 than in FY2008.)
  • • The other emergency food mainstay for these programs, USDA/TEFAP, is also on the decline – down 10% in the last 5 years.

 

With SNAP and Unemployment Insurance cuts on top of rising food prices, MEFAP has never been more critical.

MEFAP meets core nutritional needs for struggling families (some of whom are not able to qualify for federal programs such as SNAP or WIC):

  • • MEFAP is a reliable source of staples such as meat, eggs, milk, and fresh produce that are rarely donated in sufficient quantities.
  • • MEFAP’s emphasis on nutritious foods helps ensure the health of particularly vulnerable segments of the population – such as children and the elderly.

MEFAP also supports the Massachusetts economy by granting contracts to Massachusetts food distributors and local farmers, including:

  • • Pioneer Valley Growers Association (South Deerfield)
  • • Szawlowski Farms, Hatfield
  • • Long Plain Farm, Whately

 

Contacts

Senate Ways and Means members from Western Mass. (Click links for contact info):

Stephen Brewer
Gale Candaras
Benjamin Downing
Donald Humason

House Ways and Means members from Western Mass. (Click links for contact info):

Stephen Kulik — Vice Chair
Cheryl Coakley-Rivera
Thomas Petrolati
William Pignatelli

State House Switch Board: (617) 722-2000

 

Governor Patrick Announces Steps to Preserve SNAP Benefits

On March 18, Governor Deval Patrick took steps to avoid losing approximately $142 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that are set to be cut under the new Farm Bill, impacting approximately 163,000 households in Massachusetts.

Under the old Farm Bill, states were able to give low income households just $1-a-year in heating assistance to qualify them for more SNAP benefits. The new Farm Bill raises the threshold to $20-a-year.

Gov. Patrick’s administration says it will spend the additional $3 million in state money to meet that $20-a-year minimum, in order to prevent the $142 million cut in federal benefits. This allows families to be eligible for an increase of $80 in monthly SNAP benefits to help pay for healthy food.

Seven other states and the District of Columbia have already taken the same steps to preserve these benefits for families struggling with food insecurity.

We would like to thank Governor Patrick, as well as Congressman Jim McGovern, for all of their ongoing efforts in preserving SNAP benefits for the residents of Massachusetts.

Learn more about the new plan.

Learn more about the Federal Farm Bill.