News Springfield Schools, Pioneer Valley farm group receive $400,000 state grants to combat food insecurity during coronavirus pandemic

MassLive, July 22, 2020. By

Springfield Public Schools and an association of Western Massachusetts farmers are the biggest recipients of the first round of state grants distributed to address food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced on Wednesday nearly $3 million in grants will be distributed in the first round of funding. The funding is part of the $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant program created to ensure residents statewide have access to healthy, local food.

The 26 grants ranged from the $485,248 Springfield Schools received to $2,500 for a Cape Cod church group that delivers food to children. They were distributed to different organizations across the state to help them improve their infrastructure to provide food, according to the governor’s office.

“During this pandemic, Massachusetts’ food supply chain has faced significant challenges and there is an urgent need for food security to support our most vulnerable residents,” Baker said in writing. “This new funding is a $3 million investment in the infrastructure we need to continue to respond to the impacts of the pandemic, while creating a system that provides more equitable access to nutritious, local food in the Commonwealth.”

Springfield Public Schools will use the grant to support the program to provide pre-packaged daily meals to the 25,000 students in the schools, especially while they are attending school remotely from their homes. Some meals will also be delivered to the classroom for children who will be physically attending school, officials said.

The money is earmarked to be used to allow food service employees to purchase packaging machinery, a refrigerated truck and insulated bags to deliver meals to the classroom, officials said.

Pioneer Valley Growers Association, a collaboration of Western Massachusetts farmers who work together to deliver their products to supermarkets, will receive $439,707 in funding. The money will be used to build a new cold storage facility, upgrade its computer tracking system and provide technical support to employees, officials said.

Clarkdale Fruit Farms, of Deerfield, also received a $44,327 grant to purchase a refrigerated delivery truck that will allow its fruit and other produce to be distributed safely for a longer distance, officials said.

Awards will continue to be granted on a rolling basis.

In addition, the administration announced the first round of new vendors for the Healthy Incentives Program, funded through $5 million in additional funds recommended by the Food Security Task Force. The vendors provide matching benefits for households who purchase locally grown produce with SNAP benefits. Most of the vendors are small farm stands and farmers markets which serve communities most impacted by the pandemic.

Vendors were named in a variety of Western Massachusetts communities including Springfield, West Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Amherst, Cummington, Huntington and Worthington, officials said.