Farming Matters – March 2021

Using SNAP-HIP benefits to address local food insecurity

The Farming Matters Blog is a place to talk about the farm and our mission more deeply – about our hopes for the farm and why we think having a local community-based and organic farm is important.  Feeding our local community great organic produce is our goal and during the pandemic it has become more critical than ever. We are gratified to enroll so many new members in our CSA but find it concerning that food security, due in part to crop failures and severe weather in other parts of the country and interruptions in the supply chain, were part of the motivation for these new members.  Of course, now that they have experienced our wonderful farm & CSA for themselves, we hope they will remain members even after the current crisis is resolved.

Local access to food is a priority for many organizations – local, regional, state, and federal. In Massachusetts, through the Mass Department or Agriculture or MDAR, there is renewed focus on preventing the state’s high quality agricultural lands from being used for anything that “negatively impacts its future agricultural viability.”  This is done through an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) which protects farmland from development while assuring it is affordable for future generations of farmers.  It is an avenue that Yellow Stonehouse Farm is exploring as part of our long-term plan to ensure the farm provides food for the local community in perpetuity.

Another critical focus for YSF is feeding our local community.  We always try to provide our organic produce at a reasonable cost, i.e., our 20 week Every-Week Full Farm share works out to less than $35 per week and we donate to food pantries.  But we want to do more!  So, we applied to and were authorized by the USDA to accept SNAP benefits.  For those who are unfamiliar with the SNAP program, it is the Federal Government’s food assistance program that is administered in the Commonwealth by the Department of Transitional Assistance, or DTA.  DTA serves one in eight citizens of Massachusetts with either direct cash or food assistance as well as worker training programs.

A wonderful complimentary program to SNAP is the Healthy Incentives Program or HIP.  HIP gives SNAP recipients money back when they use their SNAP benefits to buy healthy fruits & vegetable from HIP qualified Farms.  HIP will put the SNAP dollars you spend on HIP produce back onto your EBT card instantly. Once the money has been put back on your EBT card, you can spend it at any SNAP retailer like always.

Even after Yellow Stonehouse Farm was authorized for SNAP in 2019, we still had to apply to MDAR for HIP authorization – and when we were first approved for SNAP, Massachusetts wasn’t accepting new farms into the program.  Bummer!  However, we persevered, and in the Spring of 2020 (at the height of the pandemic and a period of dramatically increasing food insecurity) DTA opened the opportunity for new farms to apply for HIP authorization.  We applied in June, with a focus on providing food insecure elders in Westfield with access to fresh organic produce and were happily approved in September 2020.

Even better, in cooperation with the DTA, some HIP approved farms can develop SNAP-HIP CSA programs.  CSA membership payments are made monthly with SNAP benefits and reimbursed with HIP dollars up to a monthly cap of $40, $60, or $80 dollars – depending on family size.  We are happy to be one of these farms and to welcome SNAP/HIP members to our 2021 Summer CSA. 

Follow this link to our Summer SNAP-HIP CSA membership page:  https://yellowstonehousefarmcsa.com/snap-hip-csa/  to apply for membership.  Please email the farm at yellowstonehousefarmcsa@gmail.com or call Connie at 413-562-2164 with any questions.

Hunger or food insecurity is sadly becoming an increasing problem in our country and local community.  Whether due to extreme weather events, supply change interruptions, changes in rainfall and drought patterns, impacts on agricultural productivity due to loss of pollinators and fertile soils – we are now in a place where food insecurity and hunger has become all too common. Yellow Stonehouse Farm’s mission includes solving the problem of food insecurity.  We hope by participating in the SNAP/HIP program we help more of our neighbors and friends gain access to our healthy local and organic food.

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