BOSTON – Today state Senator Eileen Donoghue secured funding in the Senate budget for the Massachusetts Food Trust, a program that aims to increase access to nutritious food and create jobs in low-income areas.
The legislature created the Massachusetts Food Trust in 2014 to address the problem of low access to healthy food, which plagues dozens of the commonwealth’s communities, including Lowell. A recent report found that nearly 40 percent of Massachusetts residents live in places where it is difficult to get to a grocery store. These food deserts are home to 2.8 million residents, including 700,000 children and 500,000 seniors.
The food trust will provide financing to food enterprises in low-access areas so that they can expand their healthy food offerings. Donoghue helped authorize $6.4 million in capital funding for the program in last year’s economic development bill, and today she secured $100,000 in operating funds that will allow the food trust to leverage that capital and begin investing in communities like Lowell.
“I’m proud to support the food trust, which will lead to better public health in Lowell’s lowest-income neighborhoods,” said Donoghue. “It also has the potential to benefit small businesses in those areas. The program could support the expansion of a neighborhood grocer or help a corner store purchase the equipment it needs to store fresh produce.”
One of the local food enterprises that could benefit from the launch of the program is Mill City Grows, which hopes to obtain financing for a second mobile market. That project would support up to five new jobs.
“The Massachusetts Food Trust is a great example of how public funds can be leveraged by private and charitable capital to really make an impact in low-income and low-food access communities,” said Francey Slater, founding co-director of Mill City Grows. “In Lowell, we’re reaching thousands of residents with Mill City Grows’ Mobile Market, creating fresh food access in neighborhoods that don’t have full service grocery stores. Implementing the food trust means that Lowell and other communities across the commonwealth will see an increase in accessibility and affordability of fresh and nutritious foods, which ultimately leads to healthier and more resilient communities.”
Other projects in the food trust’s pipeline include a new grocery store in Springfield that is expected to create 100 jobs, the expansion of a grocery store in Lawrence that will support up to 10 jobs, and a community food co-operative in Dorchester that will create 15 jobs.