Food Banks Seek State Funds as Federal Cuts Loom

Food banks from across Massachusetts expect to see major cuts as the Republican Party plans to slash $150 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps feed some of the state’s neediest residents.

To make up for the loss, four of the state’s largest food banks are asking local legislators to support their call for more funding for the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Program in order to meet the increased demand.

“I just came back from Washington, D.C. where the threat of cuts to federal nutrition programs is very, very real,” said Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. He added that further cuts would overwhelm food banks.

The Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) had already taken a hit recently, due to $665,000 in cuts, which Gov. Charlie Baker approved in December 2016.

Stephanie Nichols, communications and governor affairs director for the Greater Boston Food Bank, said MEFAP had gotten a $500,000 increase for 2016 and is now operating back at a $17 million budget.

The Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts is a network of over 800 “food pantries, shelters, meal programs and daycare centers throughout the state,” Nichols said. “So there’s an incredible need out there, and MEFAP is just critical for us to be able to meet that need.”

In order to meet that need, all Coalition members are asking that funding for MEFAP, which feeds 800,000 each year in Massachusetts, be increased to $20 million for 2018. According to MEFAP, a $20 million budget will buy over 23 million meals.

Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of The Greater Boston Food Bank, said that despite the economic prosperity of some Massachusetts zip codes, many families are struggling to get by, and the state needs to step up to the plate to make sure that programs like MEFAP are well funded for the people of the Commonwealth.

“And in this very uncertain time, state issues and state’s rights are going to be paramount,” D’Amato said. “So it’s up to us to make sure that we are speaking on behalf of those who don’t have a voice and ensuring that their food supply can be there when they go to a pantry and that it’s healthy [and] nutritious.”

D’Amato said the MEFAP not only provides food for individuals and families but also supports local businesses and farmers, who are among the many partners that benefit from MEFAP dollars.

“We buy from farmers, we buy from manufacturers, we buy from growers. So that money just isn’t going someplace. It’s going back into our economy … supporting our economic system and feeding hungry people. It’s a win-win,” D’Amato said.

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.

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