Food Security

We’re working with local stakeholders in Massachusetts to build a better and more equitable food system. Because everyone deserves access to healthy and affordable food.

vegetables and fruits

The Challenge

We have an opportunity to redesign our fragmented, under-resourced, and inequitable food systems around local communities. Today, families must navigate information gaps, insufficient financial resources and limited food options. Even the most well-intentioned solutions created barriers to food access. In Massachusetts, we’re working to change this.

By the Numbers

13.5 million U.S. households

experience food insecurity. That’s over 10% according to 2021 data.

18.8 million people

18.8 million people live in a food desert – meaning they live without easy or convenient access to a grocery store.

Over 550,000 households

in Massachusetts utilize food assistance programs. But applications can be complicated and services inaccessible.

Our Goals

We work to create opportunities for communities to make decisions about their food resources. We help policymakers in Massachusetts develop proactive, sustainable, and equity-oriented solutions. Alongside local stakeholders, we increase access to healthy food and close systemic gaps that allow people to go hungry. Together, we’re building a more equitable and resilient food system.

Our Work

Equitable Boston Food Ecosystem (EBFE) Project with the City of Boston’s Office of Food Access

Health Leads worked with the City of Boston’s Office of Food Access to center community recommendations. We interviewed over 100 local Boston stakeholders as part of this effort. We continue working with partners to put in place the recommended community-led solutions.

Neighborhood Food Action Collaborative (NFAC)

Neighborhood-specific and community-owned solutions are critical to ensuring food security. Using a hyper-local approach, we supported the development of local community groups. These groups are increasing SNAP benefits enrollment through education and outreach and maintain a multilingual Food Resource Guide.

Increase SNAP Enrollment in Target Neighborhoods

Thousands of low-income residents who are eligible to receive federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are not accessing them. In partnership with the New England United 4 Justice (NEU4J), we support SNAP enrollment, education, and application help throughout Boston. We also maintains an active membership in the Common App Coalition.

Support Community Measurement Development

We established a community-driven definition of food insecurity. This supports improvements in measurement and data collection reflecting residents’ lived experiences. These measurements also inform programming and policy decisions.

Food-system challenges disproportionately harm communities of color. This is especially true in the Greater Boston area, where food insecurity  more than doubled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ricardo Henry

“NFAC is seeing results because this group has community members, local organizations, and Health Leads, who can support us in making change. Our voices are heard loudly, and we are at the forefront of all decision-making.”

 

Ricardo Henry

Neighborhood Food Action Collaborative community leader

Our Impact

700 families reached

Received fresh produce and culturally-appropriate foods from our distribution sites.

2 community groups created

Strengthens the accessibility and equitability of local food systems.

Over 600 families enrolled in SNAP

Conducted outreach to hundreds of families in partnership with BPS.

Massachusetts has made progress, but the work isn’t over.

Massachusetts ranks as the second healthiest state in the nation. Even so, there is still a 30-year gap in life expectancy from one neighborhood to the next. Addressing health equity is a clear priority, but it will require continued innovation, collaboration, and action.

a group of people holding vegetables
a group of women sitting at a table with a table full of food

NFAC SNAP advocates tabling at local farmers’ markets and community events, providing personalized application assistance.

Partners

Favor
Hyde Park Food Pantry Inc
YWCA
Roslindale Food Collective

Related Resources

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0.18027305603 seconds
Eileen Lin

For more information about this initiative

Sarah Primeau, MSW, MPH
Director of Programs Massachusetts
Eileen Lin

For partnership and investment opportunities

Eileen Lin
Director of Philanthropic & Business Partnerships