Today, the House of Representatives passed legislation to fund a $36 million COVID-19 Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program. Fisheries, farms, and other local food system businesses will be eligible for grants under the program to help them adapt to disruptions and to allow them to provide greater access to local food.
Over the past several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been seeing both a great demand for sources of protein and a lack of product due to interruptions in the supply chain because of beef and pork plant closures. With an available quota and an excess of supply in our local fisheries due to the closure of restaurants, we’ve been working very diligently to find alternative ways for fishermen and seafood processing businesses to enter their local products into the supply chain for local consumption.
Ensuring access to local food sources, especially for those who are food insecure, and markets to those who harvest fish and seafood is very important to me as the daughter and granddaughter of fishermen. Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, I sponsored legislation to create an Executive Office of Food Resources and Security, in order to promote local food production and to help ensure the security of the Commonwealth’s food supply chain.
During this pandemic, my staff and I have been very mindful of our domestic food supply and the ability to feed our own residents here in Massachusetts. Making sure we have an adequate supply to feed our residents has been a priority of mine since Massachusetts was bombarded with 10 feet of snow a few years ago, threatening the ability of grocery stores to keep shelves stocked.
Strengthening the Massachusetts food supply chain and food security in Massachusetts is one of the four recommendations made by the Food Security Task Force of the MA COVID-19 Command Center. Grants made through this program would be available to assist farms, fisheries, and retailers to build the infrastructure necessary to provide greater access to local food in ways that support social distancing recommendations. The House also adopted an amendment I offered that will allow for grants to be made to expand storage and preparation areas at local food pantries such as The Open Door.
I’m pleased that by working alongside my colleagues in the House, under the leadership of Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who has been a supporter of our fishing industry and a leader on food security issues, as well as the Food System Caucus, particularly co-chairs Representative Hannah Kane and Senator Jo Comerford, we were able to advocate for this funding to enhance the market for our locally harvested foods.
This pandemic has shown us the weak links in our food supply chain and I sincerely hope we will be able to address those weak spots not only for the current crisis, but so that we can prepare for future events that will have an impact on our food supply, such as climate change.