Massachusetts Food Trust Program and Food Insecurity in MA

A customer reaches for avocados inside Mello’s Supermarket in Lawrence

A customer reaches for avocados inside Mello’s Supermarket in Lawrence

Last month, NBC Boston did a report about how where you live can have a huge impact on your health. For example, food deserts in low-income areas can contribute to obesity and lower health outcomes.

Author Karen Hensel examines retail food options in Lawrence, MA, which the CDC lists as among the worst in the state for obesity and exercise rates. Mello’s Market, a bodega in Lawrence, is actively working to put fresh fruit and vegetables on the shelves, but they, like many small, family-run bodegas and corner stores, face tight margins, financial pressures, and sometimes lack proper equipment. Fresh food spoils much faster than canned goods, and often requires freezer storage, which can be costly. The “healthy aisle” at Mello’s Market has increased sales of healthy food, mostly because nearby residents are restricted to buying whatever the bodega sells. In many ways, Mello’s Market is an exception to the rule. This is due to the support of Lawrence’s Mayor's Health Task Force and Lawrence General Hospital’s "Healthy on the Block/Bodegas Saludables” program, which provide incentives and support to bodegas and corner stores to increase their offerings.

In many ways, the Massachusetts Food Trust Program is a statewide parallel to the assistance in Lawrence, since it offers financing and business assistance in order to help stores in low-income, underserved areas to increase their offerings. The LEAF team recently held an info session at Groundworks Lawrence to share details of this program with local businesses. We also have an online recording of our webinar on the MFTP website.

The MFTP understands that businesses (such as bodegas and corner stores) are prevalent in low-income areas and often need some form of business consulting help in order to attract financing. Not only is this initiative able to provide intensive business assistance to its recipients at no charge to stores, but it can also provide flexible, low-interest financing and small grants. This funding aims to help launch and expand businesses that increase food access, create jobs, and stimulate economic investment in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the Commonwealth, such as Lawrence.

Thanks to NBC Boston for helping to educate readers about food insecurity and its systemic connection to geography and socio-economic status. For more information about the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, please visit the program’s official website here.

Emma Turcotte