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COVID-19
Our Policy Proposals for Combating Hunger Through COVID-19 & Beyond.
Informing public policy for statewide, lasting impact

The leading cause of hunger in Massachusetts isn’t scarcity of food. It's high cost of living and lack of living wage jobs that allow households to afford basic necessities. Project Bread engages Massachusetts legislators in policy solutions to strengthen critical nutrition programs while working with our partners to address the underlying factors contributing to hunger.

COVID-19
Our Policy Proposals for Combating Hunger Through COVID-19 & Beyond.

The Facts

Our perspective on solutions takes into account the need to strengthen the regional food system, the rights of working adults to earn a living wage, and the right for all people in Massachusetts to have access to fresh and healthy food. 

Who Makes a Minimum Wage

It is a common misconception that most minimum wage earners are teenagers. In fact, the average age of a minimum wage worker is 36 years old. More than 1 in 4 minimum wage earners are parents.

SNAP Benefits

SNAP benefits provide food insecure people with increased buying power at the grocery store. SNAP also boosts local economies. Research shows that $1 of SNAP benefits actually generates $1.70 of economic activity in a community.

Minimum Wage

If Massachusetts increased its minimum wage to $15 per hour, 18,000 households would no longer be food insecure. This represents a 7% reduction in food insecurity in the Commonwealth.


Our Policy Priorities

Changing public policies can make a substantial and positive impact in the lives of families who struggle to make ends meet. You can help influence policies that protect people from hunger by joining Project Bread's Action Team to stay in-the-know and raise your voice when you can influence change! 


COVID-19 Priorities

Food-insecurity in MA has skyrocketed in MA due to COVID-19, we need swift legislative action to provide purchasing power to those most at-risk. 

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Individuals and families across the state are feeling the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 crisis as they face challenges such as lost wages, school closures or an inability to stock up on necessary food during the stay-at-home advisory. Before this crisis, far too many of our neighbors in Massachusetts were facing food insecurity – 1 in 11 households and 1 in 9 children. As we confront this public health emergency with its record unemployment, the problem is growing exponentially. In March alone, approximately 38% of Massachusetts residents report experiencing food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is what Project Bread is advocating for:

Federal Policy Recommendations 

1. Strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • Boost the maximum benefit by at least 15%
  • Increase minimum monthly benefit from $16 to $30
  • Suspend administrative actions that would eliminate, restrict, or weaken SNAP benefits
  • Make Disaster SNAP available to states to meet increased need
  • Expand eligibility by eliminating the gross income test and remove the cap on shelter deductions and medical expenses
  • Increase flexibilities around how and where SNAP benefits can be used, such as online purchasing and delivery services

2. Maintain and strengthen child nutrition programs

  • Make Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) permanent to provide meals during any additional unplanned school closures and during the summer
  • Extend waivers for child nutrition programs through the duration of the crisis, including the summer

3. Provide direct cash assistance

  • Make Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) permanent to provide meals during any additional unplanned school closures and during the summer
  • Expand the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to increase household funds for working families with children
  • Expand Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to increase funds for the lowest income families

4. Remove barriers to assistance for immigrant populations

  • End the five year waiting period for immigrants with legal status to receive SNAP benefits
  • Reverse the administration’s harmful “public charge” rule which has a well-documented chilling effect discouraging immigrants from applying for federal assistance programs including SNAP
  • Extend stimulus payments to all taxpayers, including those who use a Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and ensure timely delivery of checks to households that have not filed a tax return

State Policy Recommendations 

1. Ensuring families and communities are accessing federal nutrition programs

  • Support Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline in the state budget
  • Support Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach Program in the state budget/span>

2. Provide direct cash assistance

  • Provide additional cash payments through Transition Aid for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled and Children (EAEDC), particularly for families in deep poverty

3. Prioritize equity in coronavirus response

  • Pass emergency paid sick time to provide at least 15 additional days of job-protected paid sick leave
  • Ensure everyone has access to safe quarantine by identifying alternative sites for safe, dignified shelter for those without alternatives
  • Enact a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and termination of public benefits such as SNAP, MassHealth, disability benefits and access to shelter
  • Ensure immigrants have safe access to testing and treatment for the coronavirus by aggressively communicating that medical and social services will not share information with federal immigration enforcement

4. Ensure maximum utilization of federal nutrition programs

Though not a legislative action, we need the help of elected officials at all levels to ensure that every eligible person in Massachusetts is enrolled in the federal nutrition programs they need to put food on the table during this time of acute crisis and in the difficult weeks and months to follow. As leaders in their communities, legislators can help by educating their constituents about the options available and directing them to Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 800-645-8333.

Your support enables our rapid response and has widespread impact to combat hunger due to COVID-19.
State: Breakfast After the Bell

Less than half of low-income children eat school breakfast, but breakfast after the bell can help increase access and participation to 150,000 children in MA!

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What is Breakfast After the Bell?

In traditional ‘Before the Bell’ programs, breakfast is served before the school day officially begins with students arriving early to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. Participation in traditional breakfast is often as low as 10% due to logistical and societal barriers.

Serving Breakfast After the Bell, through a model such as Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab & Go, or Second Chance Breakfast, can increase participation up to 80% or more. Breakfast After the Bell also:

    • removes logistical barriers to access, like late school buses, by allowing students to eat breakfast no matter when they arrive at school, and
    • reduces the stigma associated with eating breakfast by integrating the meal into the school day.

What is being proposed?

An Act Regarding Breakfast After the Bell (S.267/H.591) would expand access to school breakfast by requiring high-poverty schools (roughly 700 schools with 60 percent or more students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals) to serve breakfast after the bell. This would increase access to school breakfast for approximately 150,000 children in the Commonwealth.

What is happening now?

The Massachusetts Senate proposed budget Fiscal Year 2020 budget includes language to continue a version of this requirement that was included in the FY 2019 budget with the added provision that Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports on the status of implementation. While several schools have begun the process of implementation due to this budget language, we believe legislation provides the most sustainable approach to achieving higher school breakfast participation.

On June 3rd, the Joint Committee on Education heard S.267 and H.591. The next step is for the committee to report on the bill during executive session in the coming weeks. We expect them to report it out favorably, but still need supporters to contact their state legislators to ensure this outcome. Once reported, the bill will begin to be considered by each chamber (the Senate and House) separately.

What can I do?

1. Contact your state legislators and ask them to ensure the bill is reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Education.

2. Sign-up for Project Bread’s Action Team to receive action alerts and updates on Breakfast After the Bell and other campaigns.

3. Share our blog post about the #BreakfastAftertheBell on social media.

4. Share your own story about hunger.

5. If you're part of an organization, join the Rise and Shine Coalition.

Resources

Read and share the Rise and Shine Coalition's one pager about this bill.

Read Project Bread's May 28th testimony at the Joint Committee on Education.

State: Close the SNAP Gap

Approximately 700,000 MA residents who receive MassHealth are likely eligbile for SNAP, but don't receive the benefit. Let's close the SNAP Gap!

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What is the SNAP Gap?

The SNAP Gap is the difference between the number of low-income Massachusetts residents receiving MassHealth who are likely SNAP eligible and the number of people actually receiving SNAP. In Massachusetts, the size of this gap is over 700,000 residents. For many years the state has administered these food and health programs separately. This means the application process and collection of documents is duplicated for both Masshealth and SNAP. This creates more work for the state and for low-income households. Most states implement a single eligibility system. It's time to close the SNAP Gap in Massachusetts!

What is being proposed?

An Act Improving Public Health Through a Common Application for Core Food, Health and Safety-net Programs (S.678/H.1173) would increase program access for SNAP-eligible individuals and families by developing a common application that allows low-income households to apply for MassHealth, SNAP, and other income based benefits including income eligible child care, housing, veterans services, fuel assistance and more.

What is happening now?

The Massachusetts Senate proposed budget Fiscal Year 2020 budget includes language to pilot a common application for MassHealth and SNAP. This language was not included in the House version of FY2020 budget so this will still need to reconciled during conference committee in June.

On May 28th, the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing heard the S.678 and H.1173. The next step is for the committee to report on the bill during executive session in the coming weeks. We expect them to report it out favorably, but still need supporters to contact their state legislators to ensure this outcome. Once reported, the bill will begin to be considered by each chamber (the Senate and House) separately. 

What can I do?

1. Contact your state legislators and ask them to ensure the bill is reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Healthcare Financing.

2. Sign-up for Project Bread’s Action Team to receive action alerts and updates on the SNAP Gap and other campaigns.

3. Post on social media about the #SNAPGap and share your own story about hunger.

Resources

Read and share the SNAP Gap Coalition's one pager about this bill.

Read Project Bread's May 28th testimony at the Joint Committee on Healthcare Financing

Federal: Public Charge

What you need to know about “public charge”

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What’s going on?

On October 10th, 2018, the Trump Administration formally announced a proposed rule that will likely increase hunger, poverty and poor health among immigrants in our state and our country.

As of June 2019, no final rule has been published and as such the existing policies are still in place. Households with immigrants legally eligible to use public benefits are still permitted to lawfully use those benefits without fear of a "public charge" determination. 


What is the rule?

The rule centers around “public charge,” a designation placed on immigrants who are utilizing government support programs. The reliance on these support programs is evaluated when an immigrant is applying for a visa or green card.

Right now, only cash assistance and supplemental security income (SSI) are taken into account when determining “public charge.” But the proposed rule would broaden the definition of “public charge” to include use of one or more public benefits, such as:

         -The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
         -Non-emergency Medicaid (MassHealth)
         -Low-income subsidies for prescription medication
         -Low-income housing

Why does this matter?

If finalized, this rule would deter immigrants from accessing critical benefits like SNAP. It would increase fear and force people to make the impossible choice between food and family.  

Food is a basic right for everyone – regardless of immigration status. At Project Bread, we work to expand access to food for families across Massachusetts. This new rule would send our country in the wrong direction – decreasing access to food and threatening the health, nutrition and future of millions of people. It is unacceptable.

You can also:

Access resources if you or someone you know may be impacted by the proposed rule.
Review the National Immigration Law Center's "Know Your Rights" and share these resources with an immigrant neighbors and clients.
Read Project Bread’s statement on the proposed rule.
Read Project Bread's comment on "public charge".

Federal: Child Nutrition Reauthorization

What is the Child Nutrition Reauthorization and why is it so important to addressing childhood hunger?

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What is the Child Nutrition Reauthorization? 

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, the most recent version of which is the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, shapes and funds most of the child nutrition programs in the United States. Congress reviews the operation of these programs every five years. 

Why does the Child Nutrition Reauthorization matter?

Project Bread closely monitors the Child Nutrition Reauthorization because, among many other things, it helped to provide over 85 million school lunches to kids across the state of Massachusetts in FY 2018[1].   

The following programs are authorized through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act: 

The National School Lunch Program, which provides federal reimbursements for school lunches

The School Breakfast Program, which provides federal reimbursements for school breakfasts

The Child and Adult Care Food Program, which provides federal reimbursements for child care and adult care centers 

The Summer Food Service Program, which provides federal reimbursements for snacks and meals served to children during the summer 

The Afterschool Meal Program, which provides federal reimbursements for snacks and meals served in afterschool programs 

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – which provides education and food packages to pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children 

The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which provides coupons for WIC recipients to purchase produce at farmers’ markets 

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides funding for fruits and vegetables to be served in low-income elementary schools  

The Special Milk Program, which provides federal reimbursements for milk 

What’s happening now?

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 expired on September 30, 2015. Congress did not pass a new Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act in 2015-2016. However, because the programs contained in the HHFKA are permanently authorized, subject to Congressional funding, the child nutrition programs still continue to operate today.  

What Can I Do?

1. Sign-up for Project Bread’s Action Team to receive action alerts and updates on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization and other nutrition programs. 

2. Post on social media about the importance of SNAP using the hashtag #schoolmeals or #summereatsMA. Be sure to tag Project Bread so we can retweet or share (@projectbread)

3. Promote Summer Eats, Massachusetts name for the Summer Food Service Program. Visit www.meals4kids.org for more information and resources.


Federal: Farm Bill

What is the Farm Bill and why is it so important to addressing hunger?

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What is the Farm Bill? 

The Farm Bill is the primary legislation that shapes and funds most of the food and agricultural programs in the United States including large parts of our nutrition assistance programs. Congress must pass a new Farm Bill every four or five years otherwise several provisions expire. 

Why does the Farm Bill matter?

Project Bread closely monitors the Farm Bill because it determines the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which currently helps over 38 million low-income Americans[1], including over 770,000 in Massachusetts [2], afford an adequate diet.

In addition to SNAP, the nutrition title of the Farm Bill also authorizes and funds:

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides emergency food and nutrition assistance primarily through food banks.

Commodity Supplemental Food Assistance Program (CSFP), which provides commodity food to low-income seniors. Administrated by the food banks in Massachusetts.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), which provides low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers markets.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides free fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the school day in elementary schools.

The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant, which allows states to fund programs that incentivize SNAP clients to purchase fruits and vegetables. FINI provided the funds to launch the Healthy Incentive Program (HIP) in 2017 in Massachusetts

What’s happening now?

On December 12th, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which will protect and maintain the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the over 450,000 Massachusetts households [2] who rely on the program to buy enough food each month.

The 2018 Farm Bill will also provide modest funding increases to the SNAP Education & Training and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant. 

What Can I Do?

1. Sign-up for Project Bread’s Action Team to receive action alerts and updates on the Farm Bill and other nutrition programs. 

2. Post on social media about the importance of SNAP using the hashtag #SNAPMatters. Be sure to tag Project Bread so we can retweet or share (@projectbread)


[1] July 2018, USDA
[2] December 2018, Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance Performance Scorecard

Stay Informed

Project Bread’s work in public policy and advocacy is changing the conversation around hunger in our state and beyond. And it is helping to evolve the way we, and others, approach the needs of the food insecure in Massachusetts. Together, we can elevate the voices of all of those who face hunger — and ensure their needs are met with dignity and efficacy.



Get Involved

We’re changing the conversation, and changing lives. Join us.