To the Editor:
After reading the article “Faces of Food Insecurity: ‘The issue is vegetables,’” I was again struck by the struggle facing so many Islanders. Fresh, healthy food is more expensive here than the mainland, and is yet another burden on top of high rent and an overall higher cost of living.
As a community, our Island does an amazing job of supporting each other and getting food to those in need. Programs like Island Grown Gleaning, the Food Pantry, and Serving Hands provide a much-needed support to help get families through the month. However, as the article mentioned, no solution is perfect, and the gap between abundant bursts of local produce and the need to consistently stock the fridge with a variety of healthy foods remains.
Thankfully, in Massachusetts we have the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) to help make locally grown produce available to all. Families who qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are automatically enrolled in the HIP program, and receive a bonus of $40 to $80 each month to be spent on fresh local fruits and veggies. Each month SNAP users can spend this additional amount on produce at farmers’ markets, mobile markets, and farm stands without affecting their regular SNAP balance. On the Island, HIP can be utilized at Slip Away Farm, Morning Glory Farm, and IGI’s Mobile Market.
On the Mobile Market we sell produce from 10 Island farms at wholesale prices in five neighborhoods across the Island during the growing season, to help our customers maximize their HIP dollars. This also means that customers who may not utilize SNAP or other food assistance programs can still have easier access to affordable local produce.
Since all of our produce on the Mobile Market is locally sourced, every purchase made goes right back into the Island’s economy and helps support our local farmers. While no perfect solution to food insecurity exists, we are working to bridge the gap by providing consistent access to fresh local produce to those utilizing the HIP program, and to those who simply need to take the edge off their grocery bill.
By some estimates, up to one-third of our year-round population may qualify for some form of nutritional assistance. I encourage any individual or family that could use help accessing healthy, fresh food to speak with county SNAP coordinator Esther Laiacona at 508-696-3844 or Lila Fischer of Island Health Care at 508-939-9358, and learn more about assistance programs.
Mobile Market manager
Island Grown Initiative