Zoe Abram, Daniel Kaplan & Karen Romanowski: HIP funding jeopardized

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, February 22, 2018

In your Jan. 25 editorial, “Expand Healthy Incentives Program,” you eloquently wrote about our state’s successful initiative to promote healthy diets in partnership with the federal Supplemental Food and Nutrition Program (SNAP).

But now, funding for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) is in jeopardy, and the Trump administration has proposed changes to SNAP that would heavily restrict participants’ choices. The opposite approach — increasing participants’ freedom to choose healthy and local options — is what makes HIP so successful.

This freedom of choice is core to the health of our broader community here in the Pioneer Valley.

Our community thrives on the interconnection between local farms (and their food) and all of its people. For example, Brookfield Farm offers community supported agriculture shares (CSAs).

If there is a stereotype about CSAs, it is that those who have cash can join because they can pay for the season up front. Not everyone has that ability. That’s why we have accepted SNAP for 20 years.

With HIP, we saw in 2017 an 184 percent increase in members who pay for shares with SNAP.

This helps to level the playing field when it comes to good and healthy food, both in terms of participants’ ability to afford it, and in local producers’ ability to supply it. You can see this success at area CSAs, farmers markets, and farm stands.

HIP allows families to use their SNAP dollars to invest in our local communities.

Investing locally is our most resilient social and cultural infrastructure. So, what can we do? Speak up.

Call your state legislators. Tell them continuous funding for HIP is about the health of the community and their constituency at-large.

At our farm, we also have a Donor Supported Share fund to supplement the cost of shares for low-income members. We are a creative community: let’s explore all our options, and invest in successful ones, like HIP. Let’s be the pioneers we’ve always been.

Zoe Abram, Daniel Kaplan
& Karen Romanowski


The writers are managers of Brookfield Farm in Amherst.