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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 taking action on these current campaigns. Click here to see our top 2019 state legislative priorities.
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!
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?
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!
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?
3. Post on social media about the #SNAPGap and share your own story about hunger.
What you need to know about “public charge”
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.
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
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".
What is the Child Nutrition Reauthorization and why is it so important to addressing childhood hunger?
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.
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.
What is the Farm Bill and why is it so important to addressing hunger?
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, including over 770,000 in Massachusetts , 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  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)
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.
There are approximately 700,000 people in MA who are food insecure, and eligible, but not enrolled in SNAP. This is known as the "SNAP Gap", and we are working every day to close it.
Project Bread is very concerned about the potential of a prolonged shutdown of the federal government.
Project Bread joins Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, The Greater Boston Food Bank, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley Food Bank, and Worcester Country Food Bank to call upon the Governor to begin preparing a state "disaster plan" to respond to the anticipated spike in demand for emergency food should the government shutdown continue past February.
We’re changing the conversation, and changing lives. Join us.
Raise your voice to help hungry people! Sign up to receive hunger policy updates — including our biweekly news round-up, The Hunger Advocate — and learn what you can do to help.
Join us on Sunday, May 5, 2019 for the 51st Walk for Hunger & 5K Run. Raise awareness for the issue of hunger in MA and critical funds that support local solution to hunger across Massachustts.
See Project Bread's social media updates in a glance, and share your own work with us!