Press Release

Press Release Baker-Polito Administration Celebrates Massachusetts Nutrition Month and 50th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program

For immediate release:
3/31/2022
  • Executive Office of Health and Human Services
  • Executive Office of Elder Affairs
  • Department of Transitional Assistance

Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Celebrates Massachusetts Nutrition Month and 50th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program

Kayla Rosario-Muñoz, Media Relations Manager, Executive Office of Health and Human Services

A group of individuals posing at an event.

PEMBROKE In recognition of Governor Baker’s Massachusetts Nutrition Month Declaration and the importance of state and federal nutrition programs, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Elder Affairs Elizabeth Chen, and Department of Transitional Assistance Acting Commissioner Mary Sheehan visited the Pembroke Council on Aging today. March also marks the 50th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act Senior Nutrition Program, which provides older adults in Massachusetts with nutritious congregate and home-delivered meals, screenings, education, and counseling.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated food insecurity, among so many Massachusetts residents, including our older adults. SNAP, WIC, and the Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs are critical supports for Massachusetts residents in accessing healthy, local, and culturally assessable food – which is essential in reducing poverty and promoting equitable health outcomes,” said Secretary of Health and Human Service Marylou Sudders. “The meals prepared today at the Pembroke Council on Aging not only provide nutritious food, but also opportunities for older adults to socialize safely and help mitigate isolation and the impact the pandemic has had on many residents’ mental health.”

State and local officials helped prepare congregate and home-delivered meals for older adults and learned about how the Pembroke Council on Aging is helping connect residents with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as one of the Department of Transitional Assistance’s (DTA) SNAP outreach partners. Nutrition Month serves as an opportunity to recognize the contributions the 100 SNAP outreach partners, 350 Councils on Aging, and 25 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) make every day across the Commonwealth to support the food security, health, and wellbeing of Massachusetts residents. During 2021, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) served 10 million meals to older adults, a 30% increase from pre-pandemic levels. The Massachusetts SNAP caseload has increased 34% from pre-pandemic levels, supporting more than a million residents each day.

“The Senior Nutrition Program is a vital program that meets both the health and emotional needs of older adults,” said Executive Office of Elder Affairs Secretary Elizabeth Chen. “The demand for meals grew by 30% during the COVID-19 pandemic. This past year, with our partners in the aging services network, 10 million meals were delivered or served to older residents across the Commonwealth.”

“SNAP remains an important tool to help fight food insecurity by putting money directly into the hands of over 600,000 households and supporting our local communities, retailers and their employees,” said Department of Transitional Assistance Acting Commissioner Mary Sheehan. “Massachusetts has heavily invested in IT changes and maximized federal flexibilities to make it easier than ever to apply for SNAP and conduct convenient business with DTA 24/7 online and over the phone. This Massachusetts Nutrition Month we celebrate the importance of this program and our continued commitment to working with our state and local partners to improve access to these vital benefits.”

The Baker-Polito Administration has been a national leader in supporting resident food security, with efforts including:

  • Launching a Food Security Task Force out of the COVID-19 Command Center, which brought together key stakeholders to address food security issues exacerbated during the public health crisis
  • Awarding $27.1 million in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to address local food insecurity for families and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout
  • Strengthening our emergency food system:
    • Delivering over 277,000 food boxes (~4.6M meals) to food banks and community organizations during the pandemic
    • Investing $1.2 million to create a COVID-19 Command Center food program for isolating and quarantining individuals that provided over 15,000 food boxes and 1,800 grocery gift cards to local cities and towns
    • Distributing over $68 million in Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) funds to food banks since the start of the pandemic
  • Maximizing federal nutrition programs:
    • Implementing innovative, new programs, like Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) and SNAP Online Purchasing
    • Pursuing all available SNAP and WIC federal waivers, making it easier than ever to apply for and maintain benefits
    • Continuing SNAP Emergency Allotments that bring over $85 million a month into the state by increasing a household’s SNAP benefits to at least the max monthly amount
    • Selecting the state option to increase WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers since June 2021
  • Supporting child nutrition:
    • Establishing over 1,000 grab-and-go school meal sites across the state in school year 2020-2021
    • Serving more than 7.5 million meals to children in July and August 2021 through the Summer EATS program
    • Administering universal free school meals available at no charge for all K-12 MA students through school year 2021-2022
  • Building a more resilient local food system:
    • Investing $50 million in a new Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program (FSIGP)
    • Expanding the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) to 39 new vendors; launching DTA Finder to connect SNAP clients with HIP vendors
    • Creating the MassGrown Exchange platform to connect farmers, fishers, food buyers, and agricultural related businesses to buy, sell, exchange, and/or find products and services
    • Launching a SNAP Equipment Grant Program to support new and existing farm vendors at mobile locations throughout MA
    • Increasing WIC farmers’ market coupons to $30 during the summer 2021 season for purchasing fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets and farm stands

 

 

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Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Celebrates Massachusetts Nutrition Month and 50th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program

Executive Office of Health and Human Services 

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services is the largest secretariat in state government and is comprised of 12 agencies, in addition to 2 soldiers’ homes and the MassHealth program. Our efforts are focused on the health, resilience, and independence of the one in four residents of the Commonwealth we serve. Our public health programs touch every community in the Commonwealth.

Department of Transitional Assistance 

The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) assists and empowers low-income individuals and families to meet their basic needs, improve their quality of life, and achieve long term economic self-sufficiency. DTA serves one in seven residents of the Commonwealth with direct economic assistance (cash benefits) and food assistance (SNAP benefits), as well as workforce training opportunities.
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