Local pols hope to continue Healthy Incentives Program
The Recorder, April 4, 2018, by Richie Davis
The Massachusetts House and Senate each plan to call this week for $2.1 million to keep the wildly successful Healthy Incentives Program providing local produce to SNAP recipients beyond mid-April.
Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, and Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, both announced calling for the additional money to be included in the supplemental budget. The roughly $164 million supplemental plan is scheduled to be discussed Thursday in the House.
The state Department of Transitional Assistance has already begun notifying recipients of its Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program that HIP, which provides them with a 100 percent rebate on local produce and vegetable plants at farmers’ markets, farm stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs, is scheduled for a 2½-month hiatus as of April 15 because it’s already run through $3.6 million in state-provided incentives.
In a letter to Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka, Rosenberg called the program a “true success” that benefits local farms as well SNAP recipients who otherwise might not be able to afford healthful local fruits and vegetables.
“I’ve heard from many families in the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District who have found this program to be invaluable as it provides fresh, nutritious variety to their diets and it is something they’ve come to rely on,” Rosenberg said. “Farms in my district have also benefited from the program which has increased local residents access to their crops. The program is a true success for Massachusetts and I hope it can be sustained going forward.”
Kulik, who is vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced on Tuesday that his committee’s supplemental budget includes $2.15 million HIP to ensure that the program won’t face a temporary halt.
“It’s a big priority of mine,” said Kulik, who told the Recorder last month, “We’re just so lucky to have the HIP program in Massachusetts. We need to support it. It’s struck such a strong response among growers and SNAP recipients that I hope it will continue.”
Although Gov. Charlie Baker has requested level funding at $1.35 million for the budget year that begins July 1, the advocacy group Massachusetts Food System Collaborative is requesting $6.1 million, and says that Baker’s request would enable HIP to last only “six to eight weeks” this coming summer.
The House and Senate have not yet released their proposals for the coming year’s budget.