Jill Tsakiris (left) and Rep. Danillo Sena discuss food insecurity at the MMA Human Services Council’s Annual Meeting.

The MMA Human Services Council’s Annual Meeting today in Lexington focused on food insecurity in Massachusetts.

Keynote speaker Catalina López-Ospina, vice president of engagement for Project Bread, discussed a significant increase in food insecurity over the course of the COVID pandemic, which has only worsened in recent months due to inflation. She said food insecurity is most significantly impacting families of color with children.

López-Ospina discussed Project Bread’s work to combat food insecurity in the Commonwealth, including a hotline that connects families in need with services, assistance with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility and applications in more than 180 languages, legislative advocacy, and public awareness campaigns to reduce misinformation and stigma surrounding public benefits.

Following the keynote, a panel discussed public policy and legislation surrounding food insecurity, and local initiatives to address the issue.

Pat Baker, senior policy analyst with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, discussed maximizing SNAP benefits during the pandemic, as well as trends and changes in SNAP benefits over the course of the pandemic. She provided information about how local human services providers can help members of the community to confirm countable income and maximize allowable deductions in order to ensure they are receiving all of the benefits available to them through the SNAP program.

Jill Tsakiris, program manager at Open Table in Maynard, discussed food insecurity trends, highlighting that one in three families in Massachusetts has faced food insecurity. Tsakiris gave an overview of Open Table programs, including a drive-through food pantry that allows for meal choice, partnerships with community organizations to provide culturally appropriate foods to immigrant and refugee families, and a Healthy Helpings meal program that provides meals that are safe for individuals with health issues such as heart disease through councils on aging and local housing authorities.

The meeting concluded with a presentation from Rep. Danillo Sena of Acton, who discussed some of his legislative priorities to address pressing social needs post-pandemic, including food insecurity, housing and behavioral health.

Legislative Priorities to Addressing Pressing Needs – Rep. Danillo Sena (740K PDF)
Maximizing SNAP Benefits During COVID – Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (540K PDF)
Food Security Post Pandemic – Open Table (2M PDF)

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