COVID-19 Nutrition Updates

COVID-19 Nutrition Updates

To support your efforts to feed the older adults in your community, I have additional information to share. This information is a summary of discussions spearheaded by credible sources including MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Department of Transitional Assistance, MA Law Reform Institute and others. Please direct questions to tara@mcoaonline.com or 413-923-2160

5/11/2020

SNAP/HIP/PEBT

  • Flyers on the pandemic EBT program are available in English, Spanish and in several formats here
  • Average days of missed school lunches is 70. This equals two issuances of $199.50 per child for P-EBT
  • Recipients will receive notices beginning next week and P-EBT cards within 7-10 days.
  • Children receiving meals via the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) at Head Start are not eligible as it is a separate program from the National School Lunch Program.
  • Congressman McGovern co-sponsored & introduced on 5/5/2020, HR6700, authorizing FEMA to approve government plans to partner with restaurants and nonprofit organizations to provide nutritious meals to individuals in need.

 

MA Senior Nutrition Program (IIIC meals)

There is a USDA Food box distribution program, which totals $1.3 billion. Below is a summary and then full details from EOEA.

Summary

  • Original Crispy Pizza (the USDA commercial distributor) has been awarded by USDA to distribute 36,000 meat boxes to MA nutrition programs over the next eight months. The first shipment is 9,000 cases, and will need to be shipped in the next six weeks. Free to consumers, the value of each box is $50. If COAs can consolidate orders, it is welcome. Orders of 40-60 cases will be delivered by Original.
  • Rich’s Chics also received an award of boxes for breaded whole chicken breasts and mozzarella sticks. The sodium value is just slightly over 500mg and the product was well rated during commodity procurement testing. This ten-pound box is free to seniors and no cost to the nutrition programs or COAs. These shipments will begin 5/25.
  • Work with your local program or if COA/s can assist in this ‘truck-to-trunk’ distribution, contact Shirley Chao directly shirley.chao@state.ma.us

Details

If you already worked this project with your ASAP/ Nutrition Directors. please ignore this message.

Background information

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.

This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.”

CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals.

The USDA Food box distribution program: USDA Purchase and Distribution: USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. We will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a preapproved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

How it works

I think the majority of applications will come from food banks, wholesalers, and distributors. The idea is “truck to trunk” of the non-profit organizations/people.  The food bank can distribute this to all pantries and also their members.  USDA will pay for the cost of the products, packing, and distribution. There is one requirement: 100% US products.

Both proposals submitted with MA elderly nutrition program as the partner are awarded: There are 2 boxes:

  1. Joe Anzaldi and Original Crispy Pizza (our USDA commercial distributor) has been awarded by USDA to distribute 36,000 meat boxes to MA nutrition programs over the next 8 months. The first shipment is 9,000 cases, and will need to be shipped in the next 6 weeks. Value of the contend is approx $50/box. No cost to your consumers
  2. Rich’s Chics from Georgia/California. Rich’s chic proposal has 270,000 cases reserved for North East US (California will take them all) there are 3 types of boxes, and I asked for 16,000 boxes for each shipment (if awarded). Rich’s Chic will hire Original as the distributor to deliver to MA Elderly Nutrition Programs.

The whole process has only one week turn around: source raw materials, find plants that are still open, use current processing manpower, and prepare proposals. I wanted to thank all the private entities and people who were involved, they are very supportive and inspired to be part of this distribution. The contents of the box changed many times, and may not 100% of we expected, but while the country is facing a protein shortage, we can provide meat boxes for “free” to our consumers. I am very thankful.

Our state’s flagship USDA commodity program helped with this process. The processing/distribution program gave the vendors an easy vehicle to prepare this proposal.  We are the only state using USDA commodities for elderly statewide, which may have also helped with the acceptance.  I also wanted to thank you all for sending the 501c information, and to Ethos and HESSCO for providing the reference letters with EOEA.

Now the work begins, remember “truck to trunk”. They are both quality products. please get your numbers to me by next Thursday 5/14.

  1. Pearl is a quality store and all products are freshly made in Massachusetts. Do not let the product name scare you, the quality and value is the top. If you read the nutrition value, you can see that the sodium value for all products is under 500 mg.
  2. Rich’s Chic is breaded whole breast meat and Mozzarella cheese stick and serving size just slightly over 500 mg sodium. Meanwhile, we tested Rich’s product during our commodity processing procurement and they rated highly.

Some tips:

  1. The box weight is 10 lbs Frozen
  2. The size is 14”x 11”x 4 1/2”
  3. You can have multiple deliveries
  4. We try to serve as many people as we can, each ASAPs/COAs can get up to 1,000 boxes,
  5. We can deliver to 27,000 ple for 4 shipments, or 54,000 ple for 2 shipments or 108,000 ple for one shipment .
  6. We wanted to focus on seniors, we fought hard to get the grants targeted for seniors. However, all the food Banks are asking for these boxes.
  7. We are not checking income eligibility, even though we would like to focus on the needy.
  8. If COAs or case manager want to deliver some, that would be great
  9. If the seniors can pick up by themselves, that would also be good.

Please contact your nutrition program for your needs, or if you over 60 cases please contact me or Originally directly  commodities@originalpizza.com

 

Resources

  • Westport: Lee’s Market – offering four pre-configured boxed options available for pickup three days per week. These Essential Boxes are available while supplies last and include the following types: Farm Stand, Meal Maker, Good Morning, Pantry, Snack and Gluten Free.
  • GusNIP Grant opportunity – closes soon!

The GusNIP pilot project provides SNAP incentive grants of up to $100,000 over a period of one year. Aimed at new entrants seeking funding for a project in the early stages of incentive program development. Lead applicant must be a government agency or non-profit organization.

 

Trainings

This training targets food handlers and is not the Food Manager Certification required for board of health licenses. The course verifies basic food safety knowledge and is for individuals in food handler employee-level positions. Upon successful completion of the course and 40-question exam, the employee will receive a Certificate of Achievement from the National Restaurant Association.

May 21, 2020 from 2 – 3 p.m.

NCEC training – The National Center for Equitable Care for Elders hosts webinars and learning collaboratives to provide training, resources, and education to health care professionals.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

 

4/28/2020

SNAP/HIP

  • Since Massachusetts received USDA approval for emergency SNAP assistance in March and April, the state may continue issuing these benefits on a month-by-month basis. While state-level provisions are attached, Department of Transitional Assistance confirmed this benefit will continue for the lifespan of the pandemic emergency. Most active cases at the end of each month should receive that month’s benefits around the second day of the following month. For example, April’s benefits will be available around May 2nd. This does NOT include households receiving zero benefits (households greater than three people, over 200% of the Federal Policy Level and receiving zero SNAP).
  • DTA submitted a waiver to participate in the online grocery purchasing. About ten additional states are approved to join this pilot project but much work must be done over the next several months before they are able to implement the program. Massachusetts faces an additional hurdle as it uses a different EBT vendor than states already involved in the program and much work must be done to bring this vendor online. If/when this becomes available in MA, it will likely be restricted to current retailers, Amazon and Walmart and will not cover delivery fees.
  • Online purchasing differs from online ordering. Online ordering refers to paying for product upon delivery – also known as ‘click, collect, pay’ – and can be used with SNAP/HIP. The EBT card is swiped and PIN entered when the customer receives the groceries in person. Think of it as pre-ordering.
  • See the FAQ page on DTA’s SNAP and economic assistance programs.

 

P-EBT

  • About 504,000 students in MA will receive this cash benefit in lieu of receiving school meals. The benefit amount is $5.70/child/day or $199.50 through May 1. About half of these students are known to SNAP and most of those households should receive the benefit this week.
  • School district student lists are being cleaned up and payments to those students will be distributed over the next few weeks. The next step is distributing the remainder of the benefits since schools remain closed through June. Benefits are not pro-rated.
  • DTA Connect will show only the total account balance, not identify SNAP v. P-EBT awards. P-EBT-only recipients are not part of the DTA Connect system.
  • Students age 3-22 active and on a school file will receive P-EBT. (SNAP covers students aged 5-19.) New SNAP applicants not on the original lists from schools will be included once accounts are active. Private schools are included.
  • Program communications in five languages will be available on the P-EBT website this week.

 

Food Resources

Paradise Hill Farm is accepting SNAP-eligible phone orders (978) 590-6537. Order deadline is Thursday at noon for pickup Friday through Sunday 10a-4p. Currently available: salad mix, arugula, spinach, bok choy and radishes; potatoes, onions and carrots (2lb bags); grape and cherry tomatoes (pints)

 

Local Food Councils

From the Massachusetts Food Collaborative:

  • In Salem, a culinary education program is utilizing their space and staff to prepare meals for seniors who aren’t eligible for Meals on Wheels. Greenfield is using a Village Modelto check on seniors and provide meals, and Medford has implemented an R U Okay program whereby volunteers call seniors and connect them to resources or make a plan to check in regularly.
  • Other programs are adapting to get food to those in need using creative methods. In the Berkshires, people can pre-order local food, much of which is subsidized by a COVID incentives program. In Chelsea, a program enables people who are diagnosed with COVID to be sent home with food.
  • Organizations are using new ways to communicate the ever-changing information to their community. Lawrence is aggregating information on a central website, org, where schools, hospitals, and other providers are posting updates to their programs, and Salem’s mayor set up a similar central page called Salem Together.

 

Food Rescue Organizations Respond

From the Massachusetts Food Collaborative:

 

MA Senior Nutrition Program (IIIC meals)

  • Nationwide, meal production is behind on orders. EOEA is exploring the possibility for local IIIC caterers to produce and freeze meals. This production usually must fall at a USDA certified plant. To date, two kitchens may be able to produce additional needed frozen meals for older adults. Updates will follow.
  • In the middle of creating a food box program of premium meats, EOEA received an updated USDA request for proposal notice to assemble boxes of processed pork and chicken products. This program is under development and updates will follow.

 

4/22/2020

SNAP/HIP

This week, DTA is submitting a formal waiver request to USDA to implement online purchasing options for SNAP clients. If/once approved, implementation will take at least two to four months and limited to Amazon and Walmart.

Clients with active accounts and $0 balances will not receive the benefit this month.

Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT)

  • For those older adults raising school-aged children, P-EBT is a special food benefit to help families whose school age children are missing out on free or reduced-price school meals -whether they applied individually or attend school in a district where all students are eligible.
  • Families will get $5.70 per student per day of school closure. This will be delivered in a lump sum amount of about $200 to cover the 35 days that schools have been closed through May 1. Additional benefits will be issued now that schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year.
  • Families receiving SNAP will receive the increase on their regular EBT card. Families not receiving SNAP will receive P-EBT cards by mail. Cards will be issued in the student’s name and will require a PIN to buy food at grocers accepting EBT. Due to administrative constraints, households with more than one student will receive a card for each student. P-EBT are not SNAP benefits and will not receive the Healthy Incentive Program (HIP). Funds will remain on the card for 365 days. You may use cards at farmer’s markets. Please note, funds will not be redistributed to others if you choose not to participate. Issuance begins this week and is rolling.
  • Families may use SNAP, P-EBT and grab-and-go meals at the same time.
  • For more information, see MLRI’s fact sheet or call Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline at 800-645-8333 with questions and information in additional languages.

About Fresh

Fresh Truck’s umbrella organization implemented a new model to deliver foods via Fresh Box in Boston.

Adult Meals

Meal sites now serving adults as well as children and youth include:

Boston (Monday – Friday)

  • YMCAs at Egleston Square/Roxbury, Oak Square/Brighton, Bremen Street/East Boston 8a-12p
  • BCYFs Leahy Holloran/Dorchester, Mattahunt/Mattapan, 9a-12p
  • The Mary Ellen McCormack in Sough Boston 10a-12p

Norton School District

Malnutrition

Defeat Malnutrition Today officially launched a COVID-19 page and #DoaCOVIDCheck campaign.

 

4/14/2020

SNAP/HIP

  • Recipients who lost food due to the recent power outage are able to file for replacement benefits. Replacement benefits include the supplemental emergency benefits issued in March/April. Select ‘household misfortune’ when filing the claim for fastest service. DTA requested an extension for the 10 day reporting requirement for the replacement. Any food purchased with the supplemental SNAP benefit will also be replaced.
  • P-EBT plan was submitted and awaits approval. This benefit provides cash to students in lieu of the free and reduced-priced school meals they miss during school closures. Rhode Island’s plan was recently approved.
  • Cares Act stimulus funds ($1,200 individual and $500/child) is non-countable toward SNAP income. UI increase (up to $600) is countable.
  • Any active clients due for recertification or interim reporting in March/April/May receive automatic six-month extensions. Many in-person interviews are waived if all information in available and verification is submitted.

Food Banks

Current needs are not sustainable. Donations are needed as more food needs to be purchased and food costs increasing.

  • Greater Boston Food Bank – 50% increase in demand. 70% of member agencies (food pantries, meal programs, etc.) seeing increases in new clients needing food and current clients in need of more food.
  • Food Bank of Western MA – most agencies still open as well as mobile markets and Brown Bag programs but changes in distribution methods occurring: loss of client choice, fewer volunteers, outdoor distributions.

 

4/7/2020

SNAP/HIP

  • Two supplemental SNAP benefits are being issued. About 248,000 households received the initial increase in March and will likely receive the second payment. 40% of these households included an older adult. Clients with active accounts and $0 balances will receive the benefit. It is unclear if households receiving the supplemental increase for the first time in April, will also receive it in May.
  • DTA is experiencing a number of communication challenges and encourages clients to use the app, website or phone for updates on their accounts. The more documentation initially submitted, the better. DTA’s increase in volume from pre-Covid-19 to now:
    • Daily applications increased from 900 to 3,000
    • Daily calls increased 2,700 to 12,000
    • Document backlog from virtually zero to 27,000.
  • If unemployment insurance is approved retroactively, SNAP does not need to be paid back.

 

4/6/2020

SNAP/HIP

  • About 55% of SNAP households are receiving extra funds via two monthly payments. Only active recipients not receiving the maximum benefit will receive this supplement. The amount of the supplement is the difference between the amount the household receives in SNAP and the maximum grant amount for the household size. Households already receiving the maximum SNAP grant will not receive a supplement. Households are being notified by phone or text. The text reads, “In response to COVID-19, you will be receiving extra SNAP. Check your balance at DTA-Connect or by calling the number on the back of your EBT card.” Please inform your staff and older adults this is not a scam and they can call the customer service number on the back of their card for an automated response confirming their updated balance. Fliers in English and Spanish are available for additional information on this benefit.
  • If a new applicant does not have an electronic benefit transfer (EBT card, or needs a replacement card, it will take about a week to arrive in the mail.
  • USDA ensures no current SNAP participants will lose benefits during this crisis and paperwork requirements for clients was extended six months. The goal is to focus on new applicants.
  • While online ordering with SNAP payment is not yet available in Massachusetts, there are some ‘click, collect and pay’ options.
  1. SNAP client orders online or over the phone and picks it up at the store. If the store has a wireless POS (point of sale device) the customer can complete the transaction without leaving their car.
  2. SNAP client places their order online or over the phone and the order is delivered to their designated delivery address. The transaction is completed with a wireless POS.
  3. SNAP client places their order online or over the phone and designates a person to pick the order at the store using the clients EBT card. The transaction is completed, using the SNAP client’s EBT card, in the store or by using a mobile POS device outside of the store.
  4. As a last resort, if the retailer does not have a mobile POS, the retailer could complete a manual voucher which the SNAP customer would need to sign in person at the point the voucher is authorized.

Food Deliveries

Below is a list of farms/organizations whose currently delivery model may service those needing food. Geographical regions and payment method vary.

  • Mycoterra Farm partnering with Red Barn Farm and Red Fire Farm, https://massfooddelivery.com/: SNAP benefits on delivery
  • Kitchen Garden Farm/Sunderland Farms Collaborative, sunderlandfarmco.com: allowing SNAP transactions, delivery statewide except the Cape and southeastern mass, free delivery for SNAP customers, $10 for others
  • Mill City Grows, Lowell: Prioritizing clients who are at high risk for COVID, are self-quarantining/have mobility problems/lack transportation, SNAP/ HIP accepted, delivery for people who need it
  • Grace Sliwoski, REC HIP to go in Worcester: Building an online ordering system for HIP transactions, offers two prepackaged options – fruit box or vegetable box, no-contact drive up pick up, considering other pick up sites – at school meal sites
  • Additional online ordering, home deliveries and closures: Community involved in Sustaining Agriculture
  • Simos Co., at 60 Avocado St. in Springfield offers a $55 food box for delivery. Contact them at 413-734-8232 to set up an account. To deliver to Lathrop, A. Simos Co. needs at least two households per campus to sign up.

Farmer’s Markets

  • Executive order – farmers’ markets are an essential service
  • MassGrown map: customized view for HIP farms, search by winter or summer farmers market
  • MassFarmersMarkets has a list of winter markets
  • Project Bread Hotline: up-to-date list of HIP and SNAP vendors

Emergency Food Needed

  • Commonwealth Kitchen will start producing frozen prepared meals using local produce to support local farms and emergency food work. Contact Jen Faigel if interested approximate numbers – jfaigel@commonwealthkitchen.org

Older Americans Act Meals (Massachusetts Senior Nutrition Program, also known as IIIC)

  • The Federal CARES Act passed on 3/27:
  1. provides an additional $480 million in emergency funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) for congregate and home-delivered nutrition programs and $20 million in emergency funding for the OAA Native American nutrition program
  2. waives the dietary reference intake requirement for OAA meals providers during this COVID-19 emergency to provide more flexibility in meal distribution
  3. considers older adults who are social distancing during the emergency to be ‘homebound with illness’ under state plans’ definitions for purposes of delivering meals
  • Home Delivered Meal driver force as of March 24, ranges from 20%-100% including staff and new volunteers. Of those reporting, the average is 84%.
  • Nutrition programs are mixing shelf stable, frozen, 7-day and 5-day packs to meet the needs of regular clients and those recently added. They are looking at contingency plans for when capacity is reached as well as when staff/volunteers test positive.

 

3/26/2020

Meals on Wheels

  • We are aware that some schools who are offering meals to families with children, are also able to offer meals to older adults. You may want to check in with your local district to determine their capacity to supply meals to those in need and/or not typically patrons of the community dining sites for older adults.
  • At this time, EOEA confirmed the IIIC nutrition program (think meals on wheels and congregate dining program) is deemed essential so we should not anticipate that program suspending. Across the Commonwealth, the meals on wheels’ side of the program remains up and running. Each program is evaluating their logistics. Many moved to a ‘no contact’ delivery system where drivers leave the meal within reach of the recipient AND makes contact with them or their representative either by sight or speech (through the door, on the phone, etc.) For typical food safety reasons, meals are not to be left unattended.
  • Additional truckloads of frozen and shelf-stable meals were procured by EOEA and will be available through a staggered schedule through your regular nutrition program.

Food Pantries

SNAP/HIP

  • For folks receiving SNAP/HIP benefits, the message is to apply if folks have not. For those who lost eligibility due to the ABAWD (able bodied adult without dependents) requirements, the message is that they can return to the program – that the past no longer applies. Also, the national relief package in the works now includes an increase in benefit of 15% up to the maximum allowed (for approximately two months) and an increased minimum benefit from $15 to $30. Remember this is SNAP only. Once someone is enrolled in SNAP, they are automatically enrolled in HIP. HIP provides additional benefits for produce. For a household of one, this is up to $40. (Farmers markets and farm stands are also deemed essential however local boards of health may suspend their operations without social distancing practices in place.)
  • Many people believe that the application process is cumbersome and not worth the benefit. Outside of this pandemic, MCOA is working with local COA’s to become providers and Susan Carp is spearheading this initiative. Please note, the average benefit for an adult 60+years old and living alone is higher than most people believe. I am happy to share this February 2020 data for each city and town in MA.
  • The ability to use SNAP benefits for grocery delivery is not available in Massachusetts right now. This is many months away but USDA is open to adding additional states during the crisis. (I can provide additional background on this pilot program to anyone who is interested.) That said, trusted family members and friends may use an older adult’s EBT card and pin to purchase their groceries. If this is a routine occurrence, only a self-declaration by the beneficiary is required. No traditional paperwork is needed right now. However, if an agency is to be completing this task regularly, DTA is requesting the official MS10A be submitted. (Available in many languages here.)

 

I hope this information is helpful and am happy to keep you updated. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions and I will do what I can to get you answers. Thank you for your tenacity and tireless work!

 

 

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Massachusetts Councils
on Aging

116 Pleasant Street, Suite 306
Easthampton, MA 01027
Telephone: 413-527-6425
Fax: 413-527-7138