Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Robert DeLeo visited the Revere farmers market, 249 Broadway, on Friday to speak with consumers and farmers who have benefitted from the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP).
HIP doubles the value of purchases of fresh, healthy, local fruits and vegetables when SNAP recipients use their monthly benefits to purchase these products directly from Massachusetts farmers at farmstands, farmers markets, mobile markets, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms. The program aims to improve health outcomes in some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable communities, while increasing sales for Massachusetts farms – job creators and drivers of the local economy.
Speaker DeLeo was a leader in the legislature’s effort to secure $4 million in funding for HIP in Massachusetts’ fiscal year 2019 budget, which Gov. Baker signed into law in July.
“Supporting programs that provide healthy foods to needy residents is critical to the health of the Commonwealth,” DeLeo said. “We’re proud to partner with the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative and the Revere Farmer’s Market to highlight how to increase access to healthy foods while supporting our local agricultural economy.”
More than 39,000 households participated in HIP in the program’s first year of operation, and earned approximately $4.2 million in incentives. More than 200 farms and farmers markets participate in HIP.
“To see young families grabbing healthy products invigorates me and tells me that I’m doing the right thing as a farmer, supporting the health of communities across the Commonwealth especially by making it easier for them to eat healthy, locally-grown produce,” said Dave Dumaresq, owner of Farmer Dave’s farm in Dracut which sells at the Revere market and others in eastern Massachusetts. “Farmer Dave’s is happy to be bringing our fresh produce to so many communities in Eastern Massachusetts. HIP allows so many more people to access this healthy food that otherwise may not be able to.”
“HIP is an excellent example of how the food system works best when programs consider how issues like agriculture, food access, and public health all connect,” said Winton Pitcoff, director of the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative, which facilitates the campaign urging the legislature and governor to provide sufficient funding for the program to meet demand. “Massachusetts has long been a leader in making these kinds of connections, and we thank Speaker DeLeo for supporting this investment in healthy families and sustainable farms.”
Launched in 2017, HIP is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), in partnership with the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) and the Department of Public Health (DPH), and is supported by a network of agriculture, food access, and public health stakeholder organizations.
More information about HIP can be found at http://mass.gov/hip/ and https://mafoodsystem.org/projects/HIP/.