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, Defeat Malnutrition Today, and others. Please direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-923-2160.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), in collaboration with the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), developed the MassGrown Exchange online platform linking food system channels and facilitating business-to-business connections within the local food system for products and services. The platform was designed to address COVID-19 disruptions to the local food supply and to remain a helpful tool long after the pandemic has ended.
- DTA is currently waiving interviews for SNAP applications and recertifications when they have all the information they need to process the case. For more information – including a flow chart from MLRI on how this works for applications – see the google doc. Note for Recertifications: The recertification form does not list income that DTA is counting for the household. If the interview is waived, some households may be confused and not know to update DTA on their income. Please tell households you are working with on a Recertification to tell DTA if their income has changed.
- DTA received USDA approval to EXTEND the ten-day timeline to report the food loss to DTA. SNAP households now have until September 3rd to report to DTA that they lost food they bought with SNAP due to loss of power. Note, this does not apply to food that was purchased with P-EBT benefits.
- Governor Baker signed the IT Bond Bill which, includes $5M and language requiring the Administration to allow MassHealth and Medicare Savings Program (MSP) applicants and recipients to apply for SNAP at the same time. The IT Bond Bill is House Bill 4932, which will be codified as Chapter 151 of the Acts of 2020. The IT Bond Bill does not create a legal mandate requiring the $5M expenditure and implementation within any specific time frame. It gives the administration permission to do so, but is not a mandate. For that reason, the SNAP Gap Campaign needs to continue moving ahead on two fronts:
- Advocacy to get the Baker Administration to actually spend the IT Bond BIll funding in FY2021 and implement the systems changes authorized by Chapter 151 of the Acts of 2020.
- Advocacy with the MA Legislature to move the SNAP Gap Legislation to a final vote, House 1173 and Senate 678 (both reported favorably to House and Senate Ways and Means). This bill will make a permanent change in the Massachusetts state law so that the Baker Administration and all future Administration’s ensure a single common application portal for low income MassHealth and MSP recipients.
- Defeat Malnutrition Today provided public comments on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on August 11. These advocated for updated recommendations for protein and calories as well as additional research on older adults.
- Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) sent a letter to Senate leadership advocating for providing $1.1 billion in supplemental emergency funding for Older Americans Act programs, including $750 million for senior nutrition programs, in the next COVID-19 package. A press release from Sen. Gillibrand is here.
- The National Lieutenant Governors Association passed a resolution supporting addressing older adult malnutrition as part of quality healthcare at their recent 2020 annual meeting.
Webinars, Trainings, Meetings and Calls
Defeat Malnutrition Today is co-hosting a free webinar with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Rise Up! The Power of State Advocacy for Malnutrition. Join us Wednesday, August 19 from 2-3 pm to hear real-life examples from experts in the field who have led successful local and state malnutrition advocacy campaigns with meaningful results. One CPEU through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics will be available for this complimentary event. You can register here.
MA Commission on Prevention of Malnutrition Among Older Adults was held on August 11. Notes and all slide decks will be available shortly. Researchers at USDA’s HNRCA, Tufts University are developing a new study: NIMBLE (Novel Implementation of a Multicomponent intervention for Brain health in underrepresented Elders This will be a remote/home-based multicomponent intervention to reach underserved older adults at risk for cognitive decline. Full slides are posted on MCOAs website. Please contact Dr. Reid with questions.
- New resources from the National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging focus on topics that are of great interest to senior nutrition program providers across the network: prioritization, using groceries and other nutrition services to meet senior needs, and establishing a private pay program.
- Interested in nutrition for older adults? Consider taking Nutrition and Healthy Aging online this fall through Framingham State University. You will study the individual, social, and environmental factors that affect the nutrition status, health outcomes, and quality of life of older adults. Emphasis is placed on both the concept of successful aging and the causes and consequences of malnutrition in older adults. Investigation focuses on the delivery of community-based services and the development of nutrition policies at the local, state, and national levels that support aging populations. Prerequisites include: Bachelor’s degree in Food and Nutrition or related field, or course in community nutrition, or Registered Dietitian. NUTR 940 Nutrition and Healthy Aging (91094) counts towards both the MS Food and Nutrition and MEd in Nutrition Education programs at Framingham State University. Search and register under food and nutrition courses.
- Because Massachusetts has an open-ended pandemic declaration, it is easier for DTA to request and be approved for the supplemental SNAP benefits each month. The request to USDA is not made until around the 15th of each month. DTA suspects the supplement to continue for August.
- SNAP households who lose food they bought with SNAP due to loss of power ( if the outage lasted 4 hours or more) can request replacement SNAP benefits. Replacements can include the supplemental SNAP. Households do not have to complete the exact DTA form. They can self declare by noting their name, DTA Agency ID, value of the food lost that was bought with SNAP, reason for the replacement request, date the loss occurred and signature with a note that the client signed, ‘‘under the penalty of perjury’. For more information on how to request replacement SNAP, click here.
- DTA is experiencing high call volume due to the end of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation for many. This is the extra $600/week of UI people were receiving.
- You can check the average monthly SNAP award for an older adult aged 60+, living alone for each city and town in the Commonwealth. MCOA will request this information from DTA every six months and post it on the website. Look for SNAP Average Award by City/Town. While these are averages, the amounts are higher than the minimum award most assume they will receive!
Please join the next MA Malnutrition Prevention Commission meeting on 10:45 am -1:30 pm, Tuesday, August 11, 2020 https://statema.webex.com/meet/Amy.Sheeley Call-in number 1-886-692-3580. Code 649 956 895
Agenda includes: The COVID-19 Crisis in Long-Term Care, Novel Implementation of a Multicomponent intervention for Brain Health in underrepresented Elders (NIMBLE), ‘Be a Good Nutrition Neighbor’ Nutritional Health Awareness Campaign and member updates.
MA Senior Nutrition Program/EOEA (IIIC meals)
There are some additional protein boxes available. The contents include 2.5 pounds sliced deli ham and ½ pound sliced American cheese. The product will arrive next week and must be distributed by 8/25. The sodium content is high, so it is not suitable for any one who has a diet restriction. If you can take advantage, please contact Cheryl at Original email@example.com.
Reminder! In addition to these nutrition updates, MCOA is adding nutrition resources to it’s website and created a nutrition email list through which very timely (and sporadic) messages will be shared. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be added.
The supplemental benefit will be awarded for July and available in accounts around August 2.
DTA may need to handle an additional 40K people in August and September who are losing unemployment insurance after July 31.
Please remember to beware of and share information on ongoing SNAP scams.
Dozens of additional HIP vendors were added Statewide. To find a list of HIP authorized farms and vendors, visit massnrc.org/hipmap. HIP is the additional program SNAP recipients are automatically enrolled in allowing for produce purchases beyond monthly SNAP allowances.
Food Access Programs
Senior Farmer’s Market coupons were distributed to nutrition programs. Contact your local IIIC program if you have not received notification, your allotment or have distribution questions.
MCOA is now an ambassador for ASPEN’s Malnutrition Awareness Week October 4-10. Among the benefits are daily complimentary webinars for all COAs with a promotional code! Stay tuned for details.
Webinars, Trainings, Meetings and Calls
- NCECE provides webinars on a variety of topics related to older adult health. Registration for NCECE training and technical assistance is free. Learn about upcoming webinars as they are scheduled and check out the resources from our past webinars below. More are available on the website.
- May 21, 2020: Improving Diabetes Care Quality in Rural Communities
- April 15, 2020: Health Centers as Age-Friendly Health Systems
- March-April, 2020: 2020 Diabetes In Special & Vulnerable Populations
- Save the Date! American Society for Nutrition’s annual flagship meeting will return to Boston, MA, the site of its record breaking, inaugural meeting in 2018 to host Nutrition 2021, July 10 – 13. Bookmark the meeting site and check back often for updates at https://meeting.nutrition.org/N21
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers nutrition articles, tips, video and activities for individuals and families managing the challenging conditions of the COVID-19 outbreak. These include:
- Video: How clean is your kitchen
- Articles: Should you wash all food, Tips for ordering takeout or delivery, Getting groceries during quarantine
- Print materials (tip sheets for adults and kids activities)
- Infographics: Safe food (shopping, storing, dates)
Support amendments #382 and 384 by Rep. Dan Donahue to Fund the MA Food Trust Program in the economic development bill (H4879). You can find your Rep’s contact info here; click here to find your Rep if you do not know who they are. The House is debating an economic development bill today. The bill on the floor does not continue funding authorization for the MA Food Trust Program, and unless we can amend the bill, funding authorization will expire next year. The MA Food Trust Program supports small- to mid-size food retailers and related food enterprises as part of our state’s COVID response and recovery provides multiple benefits simultaneously: it increases food access in communities underserved by full service grocery stores at a time that food insecurity is skyrocketing; it helps small business owners maintain and expand their businesses, supporting economic growth and maintaining jobs in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods; and by giving preference to retailers who partner with Massachusetts farmers, it supports our state’s agricultural economy.
The top 10 cities (cities with un-PIN-ed P-EBT cards above 1000) are Worcester, Lynn Lowell, Brockton, Springfield, Fall River, New Bedford, Boston (Dorchester), Lawrence and Everett. The parent/guardian can get the case number directly from DTA by going onto DTA Connect HERE, and can also get clear instructions on how to PIN the card at www.MAp-EBT.org. The parent/guardian can report they did not get a P-EBT card to the DTA Assistance Line at 877-382-2363. The family may include immigrant members and are worried that using the benefits might be harmful. USDA and DTA have both confirmed that use of P-EBT benefits does not cause any ‘public charge’ problems. While P-EBT benefits cannot be transferred to another family, a family can always make a donation to a local food pantry or non-profits if they wish to reciprocate in some way. Toward that end, we have borrowed a flier from our friends at South Carolina Appleseed: If You Do Not Need Your P-EBT Card, Your Neighbors Do.
- We are writing with a variety of updates and key information and remind you about Tuesday’s SNAP Coalition Zoom meeting. We also want to remind you that this Monday, July 20th is the National “Rolling Rally” to urge the Senate to #BoostSNAPNow in the next COVID-19 package. Check out the Rolling Rally information here.
- The Northwestern Institute for Policy Research has released a data visualization on weekly food insecurity rates during COVID-19 (based on data from the Census Household Pulse survey). In MA, average weekly food insecurity during COVID-19 for respondents has been 16.4% for all respondents- 23.4% for Black , 26.6% for Latino/Hispanic, and 14.1% for white respondents. This reinforces the need to #BoostSNAPnow in the next COVID package.
- Currently, all workers getting unemployment benefits (with the exception of a small handful of folks in a certain type of Section 30 training program) are getting a $600/week boost in benefits. This boost is called FPUC (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation). FPUC counts as income for SNAP. Since April, tens of thousands of Massachusetts households have been terminated from or denied SNAP because of FPUC.
Welcome to Seasoned Newsletter #8. (If you missed the most recent one, it’s here.) This time, we’ve got a couple of salads—because salads are easy to make, very tasty, and of course healthy. One is a ‘salad as meal’, with two kinds of beans and canned tuna. The other is a side salad with only a handful of ingredients, delivering tons of flavor. Thyme to share some exciting news! Our new shop is live! It’s easier than ever to subscribe to Seasoned and ChopChop, buy an apron or a gift set, and even purchase a classroom pack for a teacher.
In an effort to fight regional food insecurity, Cooley Dickinson Health Care will partner with three community organizations to develop a countywide food policy council after receiving a $555,555 state grant. Cooley Dickinson along with the Northampton-based Collaborative for Educational Services, the Hilltown Community Health Center and the Hilltown Community Development Corporation, plan to develop a Hampshire County Food Policy Council with the money.
Food and Racial Justice
Race equity is at the forefront of many positive policies that combat food insecurity – just as racism is often at the forefront of harmful policies that seek to cut or block access to benefits. Identify and act on systemic barriers to nutrition programs, with a focus on those that disproportionately harm Black and brown households and communities.
- See this 7/6/20 powerful Politico article: “Stark racial disparities emerge as families struggle to get enough food.” The data shows that Black (39%) & Hispanic (37%) households with children are now nearly twice as likely to be struggling with food as similar white families (22%).
- Children’s HealthWatch and Project Bread just released a report titled “The State of Hunger in Massachusetts”, with a focus on East Boston. The report examines barriers to food access in the prodeminately Latinx community and points to systemic inequities and discrimination that cause or reinforce food insecurity.
- For a SNAP and welfare focused list with different resources we have compiled based on recommendations from colleagues and national partners, click here (this is an evolving document).
As mentioned last week, $2M will be carried over to FY21
Food Access Programs
Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) funding increased to $9M up from $6.3M allowing the four food banks in Massachusetts to buy additional food for distribution to consumers via their member agencies (food pantries, meal programs, etc.)
- Due to an expired waiver, all applicants are required to have an interview including those recertifying.
- Recertification for many should occur as folks previously ineligible due to receiving extra UI $600 weekly, will lose this benefit at the end of July.
- The Supplemental SNAP benefit for July was applied for. DTA is waiting to hear from USDA if it will be awarded. This must be applied for monthly by the State.
- Reminder: you can apply for SNAP over the phone. If you are told otherwise, please ask to speak to a supervisor or share the DTA worker’s name and local office with Brittany Mangini email@example.com This is not punitive. There are 1,600 DTA workers receiving a large amount of guidance and some may need the additional education. If you attempt to apply by phone and are told you may not, your application can be appropriately back dated to this call. Contact Sarah Craven regarding specific cases firstname.lastname@example.org
Up to $3 million will be available for grants for innovative fresh food retail and food system enterprises that seek to improve access to healthy food in underserved areas. Grants range $20k-200k and could assist projects with a variety of aspects of retail or enterprise development, renovation, and expansion. The grants will be one-time investments of capital into a food retail or food enterprise project in order to address higher costs and initial barriers to entry in underserved areas nationwide. Letters of Intent are due July 10.
Webinars, Trainings, Meetings and Calls
- Addressing Nutrition and Social Connection Needs of Rural Older Adults During the COVID-19 Emergency, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Older adults living in rural areas are especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 public health emergency, even as their needs for nutrition and socialization services are rising. Rural residents face persistent challenges related to accessing long-term services and supports, healthcare, transportation, telecommunications and other important resources. Join this upcoming webinar to hear from three senior nutrition program professionals leading initiatives and organizations in varied rural, frontier and tribal communities, and their successes and lessons learned in meeting the nutrition and social connection needs of the older adults they serve during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- A Resilient Local Food System: Conversations to help the Commonwealth Recover, Wednesday, July 22 at 1-2:30 p.m. Join Tara Hammes of MCOA and Becca Miller of the MA Food System Collaborative (Collaborative) for an online conversation to discuss how the pandemic affected the food system, what challenges it exposed and how we can move forward to strengthen and work toward a more equitable and sustainable local food system. The Collaborative will gather the input, generate systems change and policy recommendations and advocate for those recommendations to the legislature and governor. Participants need not be food system experts or policy advocates, just aware of the issues facing their communities and a desire to shape the discussion. Register here.
Senator DiDomenico filed Amendment #95 to include $5 million in funds and language in the IT Bond Bill authorizing a common application option for MassHealth and Medicare Savings Program applicants to apply for SNAP at the same time.
Senator Gobi filed Amendment #5, allowing funds currently in the HIP account to be used through June 30, 2021. Without this action, all of the nearly ~$2 million in the HIP account would return to the General Fund, rather than being spent on the HIP program. HIP makes it possible for thousands of SNAP recipients to afford healthy food at farmers markets, farm stands and CSAs.
Senior Farmer’s Market Coupons
Coupons can be mailed to older adults (and receipt returned) but nutrition programs can not use the contract’s administrative funds for postage. Text and email electronic signatures are also accepted. Proxy pick up is acceptable whether a proxy is assisting one or multiple recipients. Review map for open markets in your community. Several markets are closed but curbside pickup is in effect with qualified vendors. Coupons should arrive the second week in July.
Food Access Programs
Through a food security partnership with The Greater Boston Food Bank, YMCA, and the City of Boston, The Ride Drivers completed 8,000 deliveries = 12,000 grocery bags and school meals to those in need in Boston.
Webinars, Trainings, Meetings and Calls
- MCLE Basic Benefits Training: State & Federal Veterans’ Benefits, Thursday, July 9, 2020, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Training covers state veterans’ benefits and federal benefits for healthcare, service-connected disability compensation, and non-service-connected pensions including the basic application process, eligibility rules for veterans and the disability requirements for benefit, along with filing an appeal, upgrading a less than honorable discharge, and recent policy changes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to register (reminder tuition is $35 for legal services attorneys and non-lawyer advocates).
- AARP MA: ‘I’m Hungry’ A Panel Discussion on Food Insecurity in the African-American/Black Community in Boston. June 30, 2020, 1-2 p.m. Learn how the African-American/Black community is challenged in meeting their need for food. Lost jobs and wages, disproportionately affected by COVID-19, lack of supermarkets in African-American/Black neighborhoods and more means that people are waking up hungry and going to bed hungry. What can we do? What are we doing to address the needs of our community
- Meeting ID: 849 0875 2970, or call 1 646 558 8656
MA Senior Nutrition Program/EOEA (IIIC meals)
- Round two of the meat boxes will be available July-August. Contact your nutrition program or Shirley Chao at email@example.com
- All boxes will be the same, one for meat and one for chicken.
- You can have different clients (or participants) for each round
- No minimum orders (but if the orders under 20, please consolidate drop off sites)
- Not limited to 10 per town.
- COVID-19 Kitchen Inspection Information
- Congregate Meals Reopening messaging
- If the COAs or your agency wants to open, and has the permission of the LBOH, the meals should be individually packed (HDM format), and operate like a lunch club.
- Outdoors is the best. Dine in 30% of the capacity.
- If you are planning to operate dine-in, please follow and modify the restaurant guidelines to suit your operation.
- MA needs all businesses to have a COVID-19 control plan in place.
- Supplemental SNAP funds continue through June. This increases many households to the minimum monthly allowance as was seen in April and/or May. Recipients should see the award in their accounts around July 2.
- DTA now has a telephonic signature option to take SNAP applications by phone. Households do not need to submit a paper application or fill out an online SNAP application.
- Efforts to close the eligibility gap continue. Work between MassHealth and the DTA portal continues through direct outreach to those in the gap.
- Fast track to reach a case manager, press #6 on your phone.
- Stop n Shop is applying to become an online vendor.
- DTA was granted a waiver from the USDA to postpone for six months SNAP Interim Reports (IRs) and Recertifications that were due in March through June. DTA also postponed TAFDC and EAEDC cash assistance reevaluations. This USDA waiver is expiring. SNAP IRs and Recertifications and TAFDC and EAEDC Revaluations are beginning again. The first group are households who need to complete an RI or Recertification before August in order to keep their SNAP benefits uninterrupted. The DTA forms are sent 45 days before the due date. The DTA forms started going in the mail last week. Other households filing a Recertification form will also need to have a phone interview with DTA (there is no interview at the point of Interim Report).
- Households can return the paperwork to DTA online at DTAConnect.com via their case account, US mail, or by FAX. For more information about SNAP reevaluations, see this Question in the SNAP Advocacy Guide
Students (households) not enrolled in SNAP will see the second $199.50 allotment on their accounts 6/24. Those households may also apply to SNAP over the phone as a verbal approval will serve as a signature.
Webinars, Trainings, Meetings and Calls
If you missed MCOA’s Statewide Nutrition Program meeting on June 24, you may now watch it here.
Food Access Programs
Grocery delivery by phone is available via Telegrocers. This service is moving into Massachusetts. Program components include a minimum order, delivery charge, scheduled delivery and payment by credit and debit cards. Call 1-888-902-7467 for more information.
Webinars, Trainings, Meetings and Calls
- MA Food System Collaborative is coordinating a series of conversations about the local food system, how it has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and what we need to do to ensure a healthy recovery and long-term resilience. The goal is to develop a set of policy priorities for the next legislative session.
- MCOA is excited to launch a virtual, Statewide Nutrition Meeting! Our own Director of Member Services and favorite Registered Dietitian, Tara Hammes, will provide an overview of malnutrition, outline links in the food system, and help identify resources in your community. This meeting will enhance your efforts under regular or emergency circumstances and is one piece in the MCOA nutrition toolkit available to you in 2020. We look forward to your participation!
- Wednesday, June 24, 10-11:30 a.m.
- Unidos/FRAC Webinar in Spanish: Changes to SNAP under COVID-19 TThis webinar in Spanish will cover the changes made to SNAP during COVID-19 and discuss the challenges, in addition to best practices and lessons learned, that Latinos face to participate in SNAP. Central West Justice Center Advocate Gina Plato-Nino is one of the lead presenters!
- Thurs, June 18, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. Register HERE.
- MA Food Security Task Force – $5 million for HIP (federal dollars, not tied to state fiscal year nor a use it or lose it by 6/30). Expanding the program to new farmers. Also $36 million for a grant program administered by EEA (Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs).
- Fallon Health’s 2020 Community Benefits Grant program Focus areas:
- Food insecurity: maintain food assistance programs for those areas or populations that are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to traditional resources, we are looking to support new innovative programming, such as community gardens, mobile farmer’s markets, and summer feeding programs.
- Senior health initiatives: support organizations and programs providing services to seniors that overcome or mitigate social isolation and loneliness. Particular attention will be paid to programs that ensure access to care including behavioral health resources, safety in homes and communities, and access to food and utilities.
- All types of unemployment benefits count for SNAP. There are a few different types of Unemployment during COVID-19 including regular unemployment (UI), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the $600 boost in weekly unemployment benefits (FPUC) – along with different extension programs. You can learn more at MassLegalHelp here
- If workers lose SNAP due to unemployment benefits, they may be eligible for SNAP again in August once the $600/week payments (FPUC) end July 31, 2020 (depending on their circumstances in August). For sample SNAP math by MA Law Reform Institute based on unemployment amounts, click here.
- People can always reapply for SNAP as their employment changes.
MA Food Security Task Force grant program (see above) will be used to cover the costs of new HIP terminals. One must first apply to become a new HIP vendor (via DTA). Focus on areas of state not well served by HIP, communities of color, seniors, families w/children. Second step is to apply to EEA grant program.
P-EBT (Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer) – school lunch replacement
- Project Bread has posted fliers on how to PIN the P-EBT card in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
- P-EBT is pro-rated by month, not by day. For example, for a National School Lunch Program application submitted on May 15,the student will receive benefits for the full month of May.
Food and Racial Justice
During the latest HIP call, intersections of food/farming and racial justice were discussed and members engaged. Some doing this work: Boston Ujima Project, Food Solutions New England – 21 day racial equity challenge
Please call/email your state Representatives and Senators to ask them to support HIP’s fiscal year 2021 budget ask of $17 million.
Food Access Programs
- Groundwork Lawrence Community Food
- Administration for Community Living’s Office for American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian Programs (OAIANNHP) launched a project to help develop a searchable list of American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian farmers willing to sell direct to consumers through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) On-Farm Market Directory. On-farm markets are managed by a single farm operator that sells products on their farm or a property next to their farm. Visit our Local Food Directories page to find other operations offering locally grown products. If you are a market manager visit our Local Food Directory Registration & Update page to add or update a market listing.
The National Blueprint: Achieving Quality Malnutrition Care for Older Adults: With the COVID-19 pandemic potentially worsening America’s existing malnutrition crisis for older adults, a broad group of advocates just released an updated National Blueprint with specific recommendations to address malnutrition among seniors, a group particularly susceptible to the problem.
Webinars, Trainings, Meetings and Calls
- Check out the June 18 webinar on the updated Blueprint discussing the new features and resources and the latest updates in federal malnutrition policy. It is presented by Ainsley Malone (ASPEN), Tara Hammes (Massachusetts Councils on Aging), and Defeat Malnutrition Today.
- Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Greater Boston Legal Services held a training on DTA benefit programs and COVID-19. For a copy of the slides, click here. Click here for a recording of the training.
- Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) network call Friday 6/5, 1 p.m. on COVID-19 Updates and Actions. Click here for more details and link.
About 4 million people recently received an Economic Impact Payment (the $1,200/adult and $500/child payments) prepaid card rather than a paper check for their federal stimulus payment. Some people are confused by the card and may have thrown it out thinking it is a scam. Please share this 1 page flier from the National Consumer Law Center regarding this issue. For more information about the stimulus payments, see MassLegalHelp page here.
SNAP Online Purchases Allowed
- Federal and Massachusetts Press Releases
- Online EBT purchasing is currently limited to Amazon and Walmart – a USDA limit (not a state/DTA limit).
- DTA has confirmed that both SNAP and P-EBT can be used for online purchases.
- Making an online purchase through Amazon or WalMart does not guarantee delivery. People in many parts of MA cannot schedule any Amazon Fresh deliveries and families can only order shelf-stable products; most of the WalMart purchases appear to require curbside pickups.
- SNAP EBT cannot be used for delivery fees norany non-food items – such as paper goods, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene. Customers need to have another form of electronic payment to pay for those items (and DTA cash benefits cannot be used at this time).
- There are currently 87 SNAP outreach partners in Massachusetts, and with the support of the DTA SNAP Outreach Team, the majority are up and running even if their offices are physically closed to the public. Some have limited hours, others have expanded hours (evenings and weekends). DTA’s SNAP Outreach Team is frequently updating information on how the outreach organizations are operating (thank you DTA!). See DTA’s updated Outreach Partner Excel File HERE. and attached is a PDF with their service areas and target populations.
- If your COA is enrolling older adults in SNAP or providing related support, consider becoming an official DTA partner to be compensated for your work. Likewise for COAs not yet but interested in doing this work. In both cases, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Notices and cards were mailed to thousands of non-DTA families. If you do not have the notice but have the card or moved and do not think the child’s school has the correct address, call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline 1-800-645-8333. The case number on the notice along with the child’s birthday is needed to activate the P-EBT card.
Food Insecurity Data
Feeding America released updated data on food insecurity during COVID-19.
Particular data to note in MA:
- MA food insecurity has increased by 53%, 1 in 7 for the total population and 1 in 5 children
- For MA children, food insecurity is projected to increase 81% this year – the 2nd highest rate nationally after North Dakota
- U.S. grocery prices rose 2.6% in April 2020, the biggest one month increase since 1974. MA already had the highest ‘cost per meal’ in the country
- About 80,000 households have come onto SNAP since the crisis began.
- On May 20th, the Massachusetts House approved legislation that includes $5M funding directing the Baker Administration to allow MassHealth and Medicare Savings Program applicants and recipients the option to apply for SNAP benefits at the same time. The language was included in the “IT Bond Bill” H.4708. It now proceeds to Senate.
- Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) Act 6971, was introduced on May 22nd. This expands Medicare Part B referrals to and coverage for prediabetes, obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, malnutrition, eating disorders, cancer, celiac disease, HIV/AIDS and any disease related to unintentional weight loss. Recent research shows that obesity is the second biggest risk factor, after older age, for hospitalization among COVID-19 patients.
MA Senior Nutrition Program (IIIC meals)
- Distribution of the USDA frozen animal protein boxes have begun. These are cases of two different types of meat and cheese products. The boxes must be distributed frozen and intact to eligible households. Although the need is high, these boxes must be distributed as a unit and not opened to distribute individual packages. This is a violation of the program as well as a food safety issue.
- Discussions to distribute Farmer’s Market Coupons are underway. Nutrition programs are planning with EOEA and Department of Agricultural Resources are weighing distribution methods of the coupons. Some communities may opt to convert their coupons allottment to the homebound produce program as both these programs are supported by USDA’s Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program. Distribution may occur closer to August but the redemption deadline remains September 30, 2020.
- Local nutrition programs may begin reassessment of COVID-19 home delivered meal clients. For those willing and able to convert these home delivered meal recipients to grab-and-go recipients, please contact the nutrition program to do so.
- Seasoned is a publication of the ChopChopFamily of cooking and nutrition education. Based in Belmont, MA, the Seasoned publications focus on adults over 50 years of age.
- UMass Extension – Nutrition Bites weekly newsletter
Food Security Task Force released their plan on Sunday, May 25. The $56m plan includes:
- $36m investments in local food system in the form of grants of up to $500k to producers, processors and distributors for technology, equipment to increase capacity. The focus will be on hardest hit areas such as gateway cities, rural areas and those with additional unique challenges.
- $5m for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) supporting expansion, development and access including equipment
- $3m for food
- $12m for food boxes – distribution of 25k boxes/wk, each box containing 30-35 meals/box
Webinars & Meetings
· Why COVID-19 Preys on Older Adults: What the Science Says (and Doesn’t Say) This webinar, the first in the series “Aging and COVID-19: What Does Science Actually Tell Us?” presented by the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) and GIA, will untangle the science from the pseudo-science and explain the hallmarks of the aging process and age-related diseases, how aging affects immune health, and how the biology of aging helps explain why some of us are particularly vulnerable to the worst of COVID-19.
· Nutrition 2020 Live Online – from the American Society of Nutrition
- 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.
- 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 email@example.com
If you already worked this project with your ASAP/ Nutrition Directors. please ignore this message.
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The box weight is 10 lbs Frozen
- The size is 14”x 11”x 4 1/2”
- You can have multiple deliveries
- We try to serve as many people as we can, each ASAPs/COAs can get up to 1,000 boxes,
- We can deliver to 27,000 ple for 4 shipments, or 54,000 ple for 2 shipments or 108,000 ple for one shipment .
- 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.
- We are not checking income eligibility, even though we would like to focus on the needy.
- If COAs or case manager want to deliver some, that would be great
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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. *Update 6/29/20 – While the Essential Boxes are no longer available, their delivery program remains: Groceries 2 Go
- 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.
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.
- Webinar: Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Older Americans During COVID-19: Evidence, Policy and Advocacy. Registration: https://ncoa.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_kLqlPla3RM-Ov6rLKj7-ng
Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Massachusetts food rescue organizations have responded quickly to the increased need for food. Island Grown Initiativeis processing surplus and gleaned food to make soups and is delivering meals with the help of social workers. Food For Free is delivering food directly to people’s homes, while Boston Area Gleaners is assisting with transportation and storage to support other hunger relief organizations. Community Servings has doubled the number of meals they are providing. Responding to a 50% increase in demand, the Greater Boston Food Bank is working to supplement school meal programs and add mobile market distributions. CommonWealth Kitchen has transformed their kitchen to create prepared meals for hundreds of families to be distributed at a nearby health center.
- Increased communication and coordination between food businesses and food rescue organizations are needed to ensure food reaches those in need and that food is not wasted, and resources are needed to help facilitate these operations. Regional organizations are providing some resources: Farm to Institution New England has a COVID-19 Matchmaking tool focused on institutional food and resources. Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic has created a document for those businesses interested in donating foodin response to the crisis. ReFED is offering a webinar series to share best practices in the food rescue field.
- Please see our webpage with guidance documents and additional case studies for food rescue organizations responding to COVID-19.
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.
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.
Fresh Truck’s umbrella organization implemented a new model to deliver foods via Fresh Box in Boston.
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
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 – email@example.com
Older Americans Act Meals (Massachusetts Senior Nutrition Program, also known as IIIC)
- The Federal CARES Act passed on 3/27:
- 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
- waives the dietary reference intake requirement for OAA meals providers during this COVID-19 emergency to provide more flexibility in meal distribution
- 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.
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.
- The food bank system is also deemed essential and remains open. The four food banks in Massachusetts are maintaining updated lists of food pantry hours on their websites. Project Bread also has this information.
- The Greater Boston Food Bank
- Worcester County Food Bank
- Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
- Merrimack Valley Food Bank
- 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!