Worcester County Food Bank’s (WCFB) mission is to engage, educate, and lead Worcester County in creating a hunger-free community, so its efforts go beyond the distribution of donated food. Together with its network of partner agencies, WCFB works on implementing best practices in food and nutrition assistance and collaborates with a variety of leaders at the local, state, and federal levels to create sustainable solutions to hunger through systemic change.
WCFB believes that food is a fundamental right of all people and that hunger is an issue of social justice. WCFB is a leading advocate for promoting access to healthy food by improving the quality of school breakfast and lunch, expanding the summer food service program, and increasing funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps. These systemic and sustainable solutions support children, families, and senior citizens in being more food secure and healthy.
WCFB helped to establish the Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council in 2006 and served as co-chair of its Hunger-Free & Healthy Project from 2007-2012. A WCFB staff member serves as the Council’s Project Director. In addition to the Council, WCFB’s advocacy partners include:
- Food SNAP Coalition, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute [Website]
- Massachusetts Public Health Association [Website]
- Project Bread [Website]
- Food Solutions New England [Website]
- Feeding America [Website]
- Food Research and Action Center [Website]
- MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger [Website]
- Share Our Strength [Website]
2014-2015 Advocacy Priorities
WCFB is part of a collaborative effort with the Mayor’s Office, city planners and local nonprofit organizations including the Regional Environmental Council, to expand urban farming on vacant lots in the city of Worcester.
Urban farming is a growing trend in New England cities, including Boston and Providence, as well as in other urban areas across the country, including New York City. In 2013, a group of Worcester Polytechnic Institute students conducted a research project titled, “Mapping the Potential for Urban Agriculture in Worcester.” The students found that Worcester does not have any zoning provisions for agricultural use of land.
An amendment to Worcester’s zoning ordinance would allow urban farmers to grow food for commercial purposes in areas zoned for manufacturing and industrial uses. This effort is similar to the urban agriculture zoning ordinance recently established in Boston known as Article 89. This initiative and others like it, increase access to affordable healthy food, promote community building, create jobs, and help beautify neighborhoods.
For more information, visit Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council.
Healthy Food Financing Legislation
Did you know that Massachusetts has fewer supermarkets per capita than almost any other state? Legislation filed in Massachusetts would help expand access to healthy food outlets like grocery stores, corner stores, and farmer’s markets in parts of the state that need them. Senate Bill 380 and House Bill 3504 sponsored by State Senator Michael Moore and State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry would create the Food Trust Program to provide flexible financing programs, including loans, grants, and technical assistance to support the development, renovation, and expansion of food stores, farmers markets and other retailers selling healthy food in low-income communities.
(Update – August 2014)
The Healthy Food Financing Bill passed on July 31. The bill will make it easier to finance access to healthy foods in Massachusetts. Currently, in Worcester and the rest of Massachusetts, there are areas that have limited access to healthy food options. Some of these areas have been designated “Food Deserts” by the USDA. People who live in these areas are at higher risk for diabetes, obesity and other diet-related diseases. The legislation utilizes the Food Trust Program to provide flexible financing, programs, including loans, grants, and technical assistance to support the development, renovation, and expansion of food stores, farmers markets and other retailers selling healthy food in low-income communities. In addition to alleviating health issues, the program is expected to develop the economy. Other programs of this type have shown progress in Pennsylvania, New York, New Orleans, New Jersey, California, and Illinois. The Healthy Food Financing legislation was introduced by State Senator Michael Moore, Second Worcester District.
To learn more about this important legislation, click on the links below from the MA Public Health Association
Healthy School Food
The Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, Infant, and Children Nutrition Program) Reauthorization Act authorizes funding for the federal child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and WIC. These programs ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods where they live, play, and learn.
The child nutrition programs touch the lives of millions of low-income children each day, and reauthorization provides an opportunity to improve and strengthen these programs. Research demonstrates the ability of the child nutrition programs to improve educational achievement, economic security, nutrition and health.
Priorities for the coming reauthorization include strengthening the Summer Nutrition Programs so they can meet the needs of children and communities when school is out, continuing to support the momentum of school breakfast expansion in every state, and ensuring more children have a healthy start by improving early childhood nutrition programs.
To learn more:
- Download the first in a series of policy briefs by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) with their recommendations for Child Nutrition Reauthorization: School Breakfast: Reaching More Children, Making Breakfast Better [PDF]
- Sign up for FRAC action alerts [Website]
- Follow FRAC on Twitter [Twitter]
Become an Advocate!
- Sign up to receive action alerts from WCFB’s advocacy partners listed above.
- Contact your state and federal elected officials to ask them to support programs and policies like the ones mentioned above that support people in being hunger-free and healthy.
- United States Senators [Website]
- United States Representatives [Website]
- Massachusetts State Senators and Representatives [Website]
- Elections and Voting [Website]
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