Food access has been devastatingly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic across the Commonwealth. Here is a closer look at how Project Bread, made possible by supporters like you, has helped people in Massachusetts continue to access and afford food during the crisis.
Prior to the crisis, 9% of households in Massachusetts were food insecure. With record unemployment and lost wages, and many having little to no savings as a safety net, as of June, 17.8% of households are food insecure — with 1 in 5 households with children not getting enough to eat, with people of color being disproportionately impacted. Twice as many black households with children than white households with children are now food insecure.
Kids depend on schools for two meals a day and continued to received them to-go at more than 1,600 school meal sites that Project Bread, in close collaboration with the Department of Education, helped to get up and running when schools closed in March and provided $167,500 in emergency grants to 51 schools and sponsor organizations to help with the costs of running these school meal sites. School meal sites fed 260,000 kids daily across the state and more than 900 sites have continued to operate through summer thanks to the Summer Eats program Project Bread supports.
People struggling to feed themselves right now receive personalized, compassionate assistance from Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline. We meet the needs of callers by connecting them to every food assistance program that is available and for which they are eligible. We've responded to more than 30,000 calls since the onset of the crisis through July– a six fold increase in call volume. Project Bread is the only place that people can turn for comprehensive information and food assistance in Massachusetts.
Families who rely on school meals for a consistent and healthy source of nutrition for their children face an extra challenge with schools closed. We stood with these families, calling for the activation of Pandemic-EBT to give $28.50 per child, per week to buy groceries. As a result of our advocacy and leadership to activate and roll-out this crisis response nutrition program, 500,000 school-age kids and their families received Pandemic EBT to buy food to stay healthy.
SNAP is the only program capable of scaling to meet the unprecedented need. Since March, 150,000 more households have enrolled in SNAP. To reach potentially eligible residents, we launched a COVID-19 food resources awareness campaign that drove more than 84,000 people to resources on our website and mailed resource postcards to residents in five different languages. Through this, more than 2,500 residents have learned if they are eligible for SNAP through our FoodSource Hotline. In August, we launched a SNAP awareness campaign with the City of Boston to make a big push to reach potentially eligible residents to help them enroll.
Families and individuals receiving SNAP benefits are being hit with new and unexpected financial burdens as a result of COVID-19. Project Bread championed the activation of Emergency SNAP so all recipients receive the maximum monthly benefit to help them afford food during the crisis.
People experience food insecurity because of barriers that create unequal access to food – this was true before this crisis and remains true in the midst of it. We take this message to local, state, and federal legislators, pushing them to enact policies that will break down those barriers:
We secured state funding to connect individuals in MA to federal nutrition programs, by organizing a coalition of anti-hunger organizations, including all four food banks; presentations to several Caucuses within the state legislature—including the House and Senate COVID Working Groups, the Progressive Caucus, and the Food Systems Caucus; and activating 130 grassroots activists.
This resulted in the Governor signing $1M to provide SNAP outreach and enrollment partners; $5.2M to support operational and promotional costs for meal sites; $250,000 for outreach on child nutrition programs; and $250,000 for Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline to help individuals.
Through town halls with Senator Warren, Congressman Kennedy, and Congressman McGovern, raised the need for federal action. The Massachusetts Congressional delegation has taken a national leadership role on impactful solutions, such as passage of P-EBT, which provided resources for 500,000 kids.
We activated 94 state legislators, and supported the Congressional delegation, in advocating for an extension of USDA waivers for child nutrition programs throughout the summer so that kids could keep receiving food to-go at meal sites across the state, serving 260,000 kids a day.