Twenty-six organizations, including farms, school meal programs and food pantries, will receive $3 million in grants through a new food security infrastructure program launched in June, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.
Visiting the Lynn outpost of the Salvation Army, Baker said the funding is the first round to be distributed through the grant program, and applications will continue to be evaluated on a rolling basis. Baker's press conference highlighted issues around food security during the COVID-19 crisis, and Salvation Army officials said it marked a milestone for their organization, which has now distributed 8 million meals in Massachusetts since March.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said the pandemic has "highlighted how important it is to invest in our local food system and ensure that the food grown right here in the commonwealth especially can be distributed to our residents, to vulnerable populations and to underserved communities."
Food banks and pantries have faced unprecedented demand, Theoharides said. She said the state's agricultural and fishing industries have encountered "significant difficulties" but many have responded to increased interest in fresh, local food by expanding their direct sale capabilities.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said 39 additional vendors are joining the Healthy Incentive Program, which helps families receiving food assistance buy locally grown produce by matching each dollar of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits spent.