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March 26, 2020
COVID-19 Response Updates: Where We Stand

We continue to be focused on our programmatic response to COVID-19 in a rapidly changing landscape. Keep checking back for more updates, but as of today, here is where we stand.

Project Bread is working around the clock —at the individual, community, and state levels—to respond to the needs of our community and ensure no one goes hungry during this period of public health and economic crisis. 

Here are the latest updates to our rapid response to the COVID-19 crisis, severely impacting food insecurity both nationally and in Massachusetts:

Programs

School Meals 

  • Thursday, March 26, 2020: 1,194 meal sites are operating. It has been announced that schools will remain closed until May 4th. Project Bread is assessing and monitoring concerns of maintaining adequate staffing levels in the next six weeks.
  • Monday, March 23, 2020: 1,108 meal sites are operating. Project Bread is connecting with schools on grant opportunities to fill program needs to operate successful grab-and-go meals through closures. 
  • Friday, March 20, 2020: 1,095 meal sites are now operating and participation is increasing.  
    • Wareham: Started the week distributing 281 breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. By Friday, they were serving 546 of each. 
    • Salem: Distributed 400 lunches on Monday, by Friday they were just shy of 800.
    • Chicopee: On Monday, handed out 1,100 breakfasts and lunches, and were up to 1,600 on Friday. 
  • Thursday, March 19, 2020: We now have over 460 sites set up across the state and have launched a comprehensive meal site map, providing the most up-to-date site information for families at www.projectbread.org/covid19 
  • Friday, March 13, 2020: Within 24 hours of Governor Baker announcing school closure, Project Bread—in collaboration with school leaders and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education—set up 330 sites for kids to continue to get free meals.

FoodSource Hotline

  • Thursday, March 26, 2020: We received 225 calls yesterday, a four fold increase in call volume. Here is what we are hearing

    • Home delivery in the Great Boston are is in high demand and difficult to find. People want to be able to use EBT online like other states have done. 
    • Current SNAP recipients are asking if there will be an expansion of SNAP benefits given the current crisis. Project Bread is advocating the SNAP minimum be increased from $15 to $30/month with a 15% boost in benefits.
  • Monday, March 23, 2020:
    • Volume has increased to nearly 1,000 calls last week—248 today alone. Overall anxiety of callers has increased.
    • Two of the biggest concerns we are hearing is callers and case workers looking for formula and parents of preschool age children looking for food resources. Project Bread is connecting with WIC to think through strategies to address the formula shortage. 
      • How you can help: Spread the word that school meal sites are not just for school age children. Children 0-18 and in some places, up to 21 can receive free meals at these sites, meal site map can be found on www.projectbread.org/covid19
  • Saturday, March 21, 2020: Saturday calls doubled from the weekend prior. Many callers are experiencing food insecurity for the first time, now unable to work due to closures and finding themselves without an income. Two 
  • Thursday, March 19, 2020: Hotline counselors responded to 222 calls from people worried about having enough to eat. 
  • Friday, March 13, 2020: Plans were implemented to ensure the Hotline could continue to operate despite office closure.

Policy

Federal Level 

  • Monday, March 23, 2020: 
    • Congress is now working on an economic stimulus package. There is disagreement between Republicans and Democrats on where the money should be spend. 
      • Project Bread feels strongly that this bill should focus on the people who most need stimulus and help. 
    • USDA and DTA have already or are looking to relax a lot of regulations for SNAP 
      • DTA has confirmed that all work program required clients, including ABAWDS, will be granted a temporary exemption. 
      • DTA is pursuing the following waivers:
        • Allowing college students to be added to family membership
        • Treating all applications as expedited
  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020: Families First Coronavirus Response Act passes into law. Project Bread is working with state agencies about when and how to operationalize and roll this out. 

  • Friday, March 13, 2020: The US House of Representatives passed The Families First Act, which would among other things, create Pandemic SNAP for families that receive free and reduced price meals. They would receive a SNAP EBT card. The US Senate has not yet indicated when they will take The Families First Act up, but Project Bread is advocating for it along with MA electeds and Governor Baker has publicly stated he wants the Senate to take it up, immediately. 

State Level 

  • Monday, March 16, 2020: Project Bread and the other members of The State Senate Response Team convened to look at a number of ways to help through investments. Project Bread advocated for supporting state reimbursements for schools.

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2020: Project Bread will join the statewide Task-force on Coronavirus & Equity, to specifically look at policy solutions to mitigate the impact on vulnerable populations, such as low-income people and immigrants. 

How you can help

  • Create a fundraiser through The Walk for Hunger to support our response to this crisis. Connect your fundraiser to Facebook for maximum impact, and ask your friends to help. 

Filed under: Informing Public Policy, News and Events, FoodSource, Children and Schools, Poverty, General, The Walk for Hunger, For the Media, Ways to Give