One important topic in public health is healthy food access, or the ability to get healthy food, often around barriers like price, physical distance to stores, or a lack of nutrient-rich food. For many, summer can bring higher access to healthy food because it is convenient to stop at a local farm stand. A map of local farm stands can be found on the website of nonprofit CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) at https://www.buylocalfood.org/
However, summer food access can be difficult for families whose children eat regularly at school cafeterias or simply because fresh produce can be pricey. Local options for meals for those under 18 are on Project Bread’s website: https://www.projectbread.org/
Additionally, Massachusetts developed a creative solution to increasing food access and helping strengthen local farms: the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). The program works alongside SNAP benefits (formerly food stamp dollars): anyone who is eligible for any amount these benefits has at least “an extra” $40 dollars a month (as an instant, automatic refund) that can be used on produce and other food items without preservatives. HIP dollars are widely used year-round at farmers markets and benefit local farmers! Only certain retailers accept HIP, so check out CISA’s website buylocalfood.org for information on where to redeem HIP. Or, chat up your local farmer at the market!
Questions about HIP? Or want to sign up?
More information and a quick screen for eligibility on the mass.gov website : https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-snap-benefits-food-stamps
To ask questions and sign up, call the Food Bank of Western MA (413-992-6204—English and Spanish), Project Bread (800-645-8333—a variety of languages), or call Community Action Pioneer Valley (413-475-1570).