Anti-hunger advocates and legislators held a rally on the steps of the Massachusetts State House to oppose federal attacks on food assistance and promote state policies that protect food access.
The Hunger Action Month rally was hosted Children’s Health Watch, Food Bank of Western MA, The Greater Boston Food Bank, MA Food System Caucus, MA Food System Collaborative, Mass Law Reform Institute, Massachusetts Public Health Association, Project Bread, Worcester County Food Bank, and the Worcester Food Policy Council.
Representatives Hannah Kane and Dan Donahue kicked off the rally by encouraging their fellow state lawmakers to join the Legislature’s Food System Caucus–the first state legislative caucus in the nation focused on issues of food access, farm land, and economic development and currently the second largest caucus in the State House.
“It is the work that you do as individuals, showing up here as advocates… that reminds us that we need to serve the people.” ~ Rep. Dan Donahue
Senator DiDomenico and Representative Livingstone, sponsors of Closing the SNAP Gap legislation, spoke about the need for greater state cooperation to lower the barriers to accessing food assistance and pending legislation that would reduce childhood hunger.
“Food insecurity exists in every district in Massachusetts.” ~ Rep. Livingstone
“We can have the best schools, the best technology, the best teachers, but if a child comes to school hungry, they’re not ready to learn.” ~ Sen. DiDomenico, talking about the need for Breakfast After the Bell legislation.
The “SNAP Gap” refers to the 740K+ people who are enrolled in MassHealth and likely eligible for SNAP, but who aren’t receiving benefits. This bill will allow low-income households to apply for benefits through a common application, helping more residents meet their basic needs while increasing efficiency of state government.
Breakfast After the Bell legislation alleviates child hunger by requiring high-need schools to expand breakfast offerings after the start of the school day. This legislation would increase breakfast access for over 150,000 kids in the Commonwealth.
Senator Anne Gobi, joined by her colleagues, praised the Healthy Incentives Program for expanding access to healthy, locally-grown produce.
“The folks behind me [are] working for you, working to make sure there is food justice throughout this entire Commonwealth and HIP is a big part of that.” ~ Senator Gobi
The Healthy Incentives Program doubles SNAP recipients’ purchasing power of fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs statewide. By increasing access to locally grown fruits and vegetables for SNAP clients, the program benefits family and community health, and support farms and the local economy.
Those with lived experience of hunger who rely on food assistance shared their stories and called for action.
Diane Sullivan–a mother, advocate, SNAP recipient, and member of Witness to Hunger–personalized the impact of food assistance programs and potential cuts to SNAP. “I am one of 90,000 people here in MA who stands to lose SNAP benefits,” said Sullivan, referring to the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the “Categorical Eligibility” provision.
“I’ve already got Trump breathing down my neck. I play by the rules, I work hard, but he wants to cut me off SNAP, ensure that my children don’t have access to school meals. Why? Because someone else is controlling the conversation about me. No more. I don’t need people to tell my story for me. I will tell it.” ~ Diane Sullivan, Witnesses to Hunger, spoke about her experiences with hunger and how lived experience is critical to the policy debate.
Advocates from the Massachusetts Senior Action Council spoke to the unique challenges low-income seniors face.
“Many Massachusetts seniors are struggling to make ends meet after paying for housing and our healthcare. Now Washington is talking about cutting food assistance to them,” said Jose Lobos and Linda Friedman, members of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council.
The rally closed with advocated calling on Massachusetts public officials to stand strong for the right to food by opposing attacks on the federal safety net and supporting state policies that expand food access and food security.