We have all noticed our grocery bills going up! Knowing that many families are looking for ways to stretch their food budgets this summer, we’ve rounded up some tips for you, including some information about food assistance programs and ideas for adding more locally grown fruits and vegetables to your menus while they are abundant.
Summer Eats for kids is now grab & go, locally and nationwide!
Free lunch and breakfast can now be picked for anyone 0-18 at sites across the region. Find info about Summer Eats sites near you here. Cool things that make it easy to use Summer Eats:
Parents and guardians can pick up meals for kids without kids present.
You don’t have to live in the town where you pick up the meals. No i.d. or proof of residency is required.
There are still sit-down meal sites available in our area if that works better for you.
Check out SNAP (even if you think you don’t qualify)
Now is a great time to apply for SNAP! Many people who are eligible for SNAP don’t realize it, and right now all SNAP households in MA are receiving at least $250/month for groceries. SNAP participants get an EBT card they can use to buy food at most places where food is sold, including many farmer’s markets, mobile markets, and farm stores.
Plus, there are added benefits to being enrolled in SNAP:
- HIP automatically provides additional money each month just for local produce. More info here.
- The EBT Card to Culture program offers free or reduced tickets and membership fees for Massachusetts museums and cultural institutions by showing your EBT card.
- The Affordable Connectivity program provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service and possible assistance buying a computer.
How to apply for SNAP:
- You can apply on your own through DTA Connect or call the Project Bread FoodSource hotline to get help from a counselor.
- Many local community organizations, including the Center for Self-Reliance food pantry, Community Action’s CR&A program, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Montague Catholic Social Ministries (MCSM)’s Basic Needs program can help with SNAP enrollment, too.
A nutrition program that provides healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to healthcare and other free services to Massachusetts families who qualify.
- Learn more here from the local WIC program through Community Action.
Extra money for food for Massachusetts children this summer, automatically added to EBT and P-EBT cards.
- Eligible children will receive a total of $391 in two equal payments of $195.50 this summer!
- Learn more here.
- P-EBT scam messages: Some people have received scam text messages telling them to call a number and provide their P-EBT card number. This message is NOT from DTA, which only sends messages from 382-674. Never provide personal information or your EBT/P-EBT number to unidentified callers over the phone.
Want to learn more about food assistance programs?
Project Bread’s website is a good starting point. Go there to figure out what you are eligible for and how to get connected to the right program.
Where to get free and lower cost local fruits and veggies
- Local food pantries often have a relationship with nearby farms and may have wonderful vegetable and fruit options for customers at this time of year.
- Atlas Farm in South Deerfield has a day-old and seconds section in their farm store that is half price.
- Pick-Your-Own. Some farms and orchards offer a lower price for pick-your-own fruits and vegetables because it saves them some work. CISA has a pick-your-own directory that you can modify to include your zip code, type of fruit or vegetable, and more.
- The Food Bank of Western MA’s mobile food banks are free!
- Farms at these weekly markets in Greenfield, Turners Falls, Orange, Bernardston, Shelburne Falls, Ashfield, Northfield and in neighboring areas take SNAP (and many are also set up for HIP).
- Mobile farmers markets like Atlas Farm sites and the weekly Just Roots market on Thursdays from 4-6PM outside of Rite Aid on Main St. in Greenfield come to neighborhoods to make it easier to buy local produce, and they take SNAP and HIP.
- PYO free garden in Turners Falls. The Great Falls Apple Corps welcomes visitors to the Unity Park Community Garden (next to the Turners Falls skate park) and maintains a free, pick-your-own section where you can sample what’s in season.
What to do with extra summer vegetables
Sometimes at this time of year you can get more of a particular vegetable than you know what to do with! Check out these helpful recipes and storage tips from Just Roots Farm in Greenfield for tips on handling this situation.