Project Bread Supports New State Bills Fighting Hunger

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Project Bread's State Legislative Agenda for 2021-2022

The 10 bills on our agenda represent policies that will reduce poverty and food insecurity in the state while building racial and economic equity so that everyone can benefit from a better future.

Girls sitting outdoor on the ground at backyard eating sandwiches and smiling

“If I could get a steady income again, I would be so much less worried about where every penny goes.” -Amar, Boston

Amar is a single father with three children who lives in Boston. His youngest daughter has Down Syndrome and receives disability benefits. In December of last year, Amar lost his job due to the pandemic. He called Project Bread because he had seen one of our campaign billboards about food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Given his youngest daughter’s disability benefits and his income from unemployment, he was wondering whether he would be eligible. 

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the number of people employed won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 and unemployment won’t fall below 4 percent until 2026. Given this situation, it’s not surprising that during the pandemic 1 out of 6 Massachusetts households have experienced food insecurity. Even as this appears to be trending downward, far too many were in need even before the pandemic hit, with 1 out of 11 households experiencing food insecurity in 2019. In terms of kids and families facing hunger, “normal” has never been good enough, and it’s not something to which we should hope to return as we recover. Instead, it’s  time for systemic change so that no one in Massachusetts has to worry about putting food on the table.

grocery-woman-mask-child

New Opportunities to Fight Hunger

Earlier this year, state lawmakers began the period in which they meet to draft and vote on legislation and set state policies. What the 200 senators and representatives of the Massachusetts Legislature decide to do during this session will have a profound impact on the ability of families like Amar’s, and all people who are struggling financially, to weather these next few years.

This new legislative session is an opportunity to address long-standing inequities and barriers to accessing basic needs such as food so that families like Amar’s can live without worrying whether they can afford groceries or other basic necessities.

The good news is that advocates and legislators have filed bills that would give people in Massachusetts the help they need as the financial and health effects of the pandemic linger on. After reviewing over 50 bills related to school meals, federal nutrition programs, cash assistance, and our food system, Project Bread is proud to announce our 2021-2022 legislative agenda.

The 10 bills on our agenda represent policies that will reduce poverty and food insecurity in the state while building racial and economic equity so that everyone can benefit from a better future.

We invite you to join the Project Bread Action Team to advocate for these bills and help us create a Massachusetts where hunger is permanently solved and we urge our partners in the Legislature to co-sponsor and champion these 15 bills.

Priority Bills

  • School Meals for All

Project Bread is leading the Feed Kids Coalition to end childhood hunger, by starting with what happens in schools. By passing An Act Relative to Universal School Meals (H.714/S.314) we can ensure that, while at school, every child is fed and ready to learn without worrying about cost or stigma.

  • End Student Meal Debt

While Project Bread works toward ensuring access to school meals for all, An Act to Promote Student Nutrition (H.715/S.298) will help address many of the root causes and adverse impacts of unpaid meal debt by expanding access to school meals for higher-need communities.

  • Common Apps to Close the Gaps

Over 700,000 residents of Massachusetts are estimated to be eligible for SNAP, but are not currently enrolled. An additional 22,000 families receive SNAP benefits, but have zero income even for cash assistance. An Act to Streamline Access to Critical Public Health and Safety-Net Programs Through Common Applications (H.1290/S.761) would ease the process for Massachusetts families in need of healthcare, food assistance, cash assistance, and other basic needs.

  • Increase Access to Fresh Produce

Launched in 2017, the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) allows SNAP recipients to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers. While the program has been a tremendous success, to date it has only been authorized through the state budget. An Act Relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program (H.145/S.108) would create a permanent program to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability.

  • Hunger-Free College Campuses

According to the most recent data, 37% of public university students in Massachusetts experience food insecurity. Project Bread has joined the Hunger-Free College Campus Coalition to support An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative (H.1368/S.822) which would provide capacity, guidance, and funding to public colleges and not-for-profit institutions of higher education take steps to alleviate food insecurity on campus.

Endorsed Bills

  •  An Act to Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty (H.199/S.96) would increase the amount of cash assistance grants to families with children living in deep poverty.
     
  • An Act Establishing Farm to School Grants to Promote Healthy Eating and Strengthen the Agricultural Community (H.686/S.349) would provide funding to public schools and childcare programs to purchase Massachusetts ingredients, prepare scratch-cooked meals and educate students about the food system.
     
  •  An Act to increase family stabilization through the earned income tax credit (H.2871/S.1841) and An Act Providing a Guaranteed Minimum Income to All Massachusetts Families (S.1852) would expand the state match of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 30 to 50% of the federal credit and create a minimum benefit of $2,400 for households with no income.
     
  • An Act Concerning Public Assistance for Working Families and the Creation of a Pilot Program to Address the Impacts of the Cliff Effect (H.208/S.119) would create a pilot to ensure households receiving federal and state benefits would not be penalized for working by providing a portion of their benefits even as their income increases.
     
  • An Act Relative to Establishing and Implementing a Food and Health Pilot Program (H.2298/S.1403) would create a pilot under the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid to demonstrate the impact on health outcomes of medically tailored nutrition services for MassHealth enrollees diagnosed with certain health conditions.

You Can Help Make a Difference

The most effective way for you to help your neighbors in need, neighbors like Amar and his children, is to join the Project Bread Action Team and advocate for these bills. You might also like to donate to Project Bread to support our work to end hunger in Massachusetts in our lifetime.

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