Massachusetts Needs a Governor with a Healthy Vision

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There are few times that I can say this, but it looks like we have a government program that is succeeding beyond our wildest dreams. The Healthy Incentives Program (“HIP”) provides extra funding to low income citizens for buying food from local farmers by matching their purchase dollar for dollar, and the results are astonishing. One person using it told The Boston Globe, “It didn’t break the cycle of running out of food stamps, but it did break the cycle of freaking out because I couldn’t feed my kids.” That’s an incredible statement, and we need to expand it. I agree with groups like the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative that to see this program really succeed we should give it a fully funded mandate of $6.2 million in the 2019 fiscal year.

 

     Earlier this month I got a chance to see this program in action when I took a trip to Atlas Farm in South Deerfield, and instantly fell in love with the beauty and the spirit of the farm. When people talk about Massachusetts, greater Boston seems to dominate the conversation, but we’ve got an incredible agricultural community here with an abundance of resources to offer this state. One outcome of HIP is that local farms have seen their sales skyrocket, and general awareness of our farmers grow. In an era where we have a commander in chief who has thrown our nation’s agricultural industry under the bus as a weapon in a trade war with China, supporting our farmers on the state level is more important than ever. 

     Aside from being a major part of our economy, farms are also big employers of immigrant labor and defenders of immigrant rights. These farms provide sanctuary from deportation by ICE, and job security for migrant workers and are the kind of business our state should be supporting. If HIP is allowed to grow, and farms become a more important part of our state, migrant laborers will always be able to find a home in Massachusetts.

     It’s a fantastic program, and we’re effectively reimbursing people for eating healthy while stimulating our local agricultural sector. It has already exceeded our expectations, and we need to help it grow.

     The pilot program saw $3.3 million go back to SNAP beneficiaries and into our farming communities, but if we want to see this program continue we’ll need to allocate more funding. Governor Baker has offered the inadequate sum of $1.35 million for the next fiscal year, and this is typical of his lack of vision for our Commonwealth. HIP will keep families fed, inject money into our local economy, and ultimately lead to a healthier state which will bring down healthcare costs. HIP and the people who use it need our full support, and they absolutely have mine.