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Community Outreach Leaders Grant Awarded

Five organizations working across the City will hire and train community members to lead outreach for SNAP, HIP, and other government nutrition assistance programs.

After receiving a strong pool of applications, the City of Boston’s Office of Food Justice (OFJ) has awarded Community Outreach Leaders Grants totalling $100,000 to 5 organizations: Allston Brighton Health Collaborative (ABHC), Cape Verdean Association of Boston (CVA), Health Leads, Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition (MFFC), and Maverick Landing Community Services (MLCS).

Over the next 6 months, the grantees will recruit, hire, and train residents to educate and assist their peers in navigating government nutrition assistance programs: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), Boston Double Up Food Bucks (BDUFB), Summer EBT, and the Summer Eats summer meal program. Together, the grantees will reach diverse populations city-wide while improving holistic access to information, increasing SNAP enrollment, and building community-based leadership capacity. 

Summer Eats poster at EBHC farmers market
A poster explaining Summer Eats at the East Boston Farmers Market

In Boston, an average of 42% of households that are eligible for SNAP are not enrolled—the full range across city zip codes is 27 - 61% (according to data from a 2021 report). Moreover, in Suffolk County, only 7% of households using SNAP also use HIP, a fresh produce incentive program for SNAP shoppers at farmers markets and farm stands. This is despite the fact that HIP incentives are automatically added to SNAP shoppers’ EBT cards, without any additional application or action on the part of residents. 

Map of Boston showing SNAP gap by zipcodes
Map of Boston showing the percent SNAP gap for each Zip Code. Image source: "SNAP Gap and Social Vulnerability Index" report by Health Leads, MLRI, and NASW (2021).

OFJ created the Community Outreach Leaders grant in response to community interest in a more holistic strategy and funding for peer-to-peer outreach and education to increase enrollment and utilization of these programs—which has been proven to be highly effective. Community-led outreach to increase awareness of these programs will be immensely important for demystifying program application and use, correcting misinformation, and reducing stigma. MFFC Executive Director Shavel'le Olivier shared: 

“As an organization whose mission is to build intergenerational leadership within Mattapan's Black and Brown community…we are really excited about the opportunity to train community residents to share knowledge with their neighbors, enroll more community into food assistance programs, and strengthen our partnerships with existing organizations—all in an effort to get one step closer to food security.”

“When it comes to addressing systemic challenges such as food insecurity, meaningful involvement by community members—including those most affected by food access challenges—is essential but often overlooked,” notes Sarah Primeau, Health Leads MA Program Director: 

“We are thrilled to have support from OFJ to train community members who face food security challenges in being the designers in programming solutions to support their fellow community members in accessing critical food benefits.”

In addition to the important work of bridging the “SNAP gap,” the Community Outreach Leaders grant emphasizes community leadership beyond outreach, to support communities to build capacity to envision systems change. Successful grant applicants demonstrated how they would use funding  to build community leader capacity to identify and advance systemic solutions to inequitable food access across Boston neighborhoods. 

Between June and November (the duration of the grant program), grantees have committed to training over 40 Boston residents as outreach leaders; referring 800 residents for SNAP enrollment; educating 200 people about how to navigate HIP; increase DUFB transactions and sales; and overall increase awareness of Summer Eats and the new Summer EBT program—which the MA Department of Transitional Assistance will launch this summer.

OFJ shares in the excitement that Edvaldo Ferreira, Deputy Director of Programs for CVA, expressed:

“Our organization is particularly excited about the potential impact this grant holds. It's inspiring to envision the positive changes we can achieve together through training, advocacy, and coalition-building efforts supported by this grant.”

It is our hope that with the Community Outreach Leaders Grant, we can support efforts to fulfill the immediate food assistance needs of our residents while empowering communities to advance larger systems change.

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