Originally published in: http://www.leominsterchamp.com/articles/on-healthy-incentives-the-snap-gap-and-new-trees/
Summer gardens and barbecues are in full swing, and I wanted to use this column to talk about new programs that are increasing food access and trees throughout the city.
New healthy incentives
The Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) kicked off in April and matches SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) recipients’ purchases of local fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share programs.
SNAP recipients receive an instant, dollar-for-dollar match credited to their EBT card on eligible purchases. Your monthly cap depends upon your household size. Households of one or two can earn up to $40 per month, three to five members $60, and households with six or more members can earn up to $80.
Leominster residents can participate in HIP at the Leominster’s Farmers Market at Monument Square downtown on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Closing the SNAP Gap
Did you know that an estimated 5,000 Leominster residents qualify for SNAP benefits, but aren’t currently receiving them? The SNAP Gap across Massachusetts is estimated at 680,000, and closing that gap could help bring over $800 million in federal SNAP nutrition dollars to our state each year and generate over $2 billion in economic stimulus to the state and local economy.
There is legislation this session that would create a universal common application portal to let low-income families apply for MassHealth and SNAP at the same time. This would help more residents meet basic food expenses and reduce food insecurity, reduce health care costs, and enable more low-income children to be “directly certified” for free school meals through SNAP.
The legislation is making progress this year, and in the budget we approved a study of the costs to fully implement the program. In the meantime, my office is ready to help eligible individuals and households enroll in SNAP and take advantage of the Healthy Incentives Program discussed above.
Greening the Gateway Cities
Finally, you may have noticed new trees popping up throughout Leominster. According to Growing Places, the organization administering the program in the city: Certain “neighborhoods of Leominster have been selected as part of a statewide program to increase tree canopy cover. With more canopy cover, our community will reduce home energy use for heating and cooling — that translates to cheaper heating and AC bills. As part of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP), experienced Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) foresters will visit Leominster homes and businesses to recommend the best trees for each property.”
You can see if your home is eligible at www.growingplaces.org/trees, learn more about volunteer opportunities, and request your free tree at (617) 626-1514.
Thank you for taking the time to read this column. If you have any questions, or need to get in touch with me and my office, email me at Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov or call (978) 227-5278. Hoping you have a fun and healthy summer!