As part of our mission, we want to ensure that everyone has healthy and nutritious food. Here are some resources we hope will help!
Enrolling in SNAP
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program which provides money for food to eligible households. To qualify, one or more members of the household must be citizens or permanent residents of the US, and the total household income needs to be below a certain threshold. In Massachusetts, the program is managed by the Department of Transitional Assistance. You can check your income eligibility here. If you aren’t sure if you qualify due to immigration status or need help completing the application, you can call the Project Bread SNAP hotline at 1-800-645-8333 Monday-Friday from 8 AM to 7 PM.
Using SNAP Benefits
Once you are enrolled in SNAP you should receive an EBT card which you will use to make purchases. Most stores and markets that sell food will accept EBT as payment, but there are certain restrictions – SNAP cannot be used for prepared meals or certain other items. You can check what stores near you accept SNAP using the USDA’s SNAP Retailer Locator.
The state and city have programs that can help you get additional money for food when you use your SNAP EBT card.
The Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) gives you extra money to spend when you buy local produce from farmers’ markets, farm stands, or certain CSA programs. When you make a purchase at an eligible vendor, the amount you spend is added back to your EBT card immediately, up to a monthly cap of $40, $60, or $80 depending on the number of people in your household. You can find out more about the program here or find retailers near you on the DTA’s interactive map.
Boston Double Up Food Bucks is a city program that pays half the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables when you buy with your EBT card at certain stores in the city. There are currently 8 participating stores, 2 in East Boston. You can receive up to $10 per day in discounts using this program. For more information, check the city’s website.
Children and Families
There are additional food resources available specifically for children.
For children in school, Boston Public Schools offer free breakfast and lunch for all students. During the summer, students can continue to get free meal through the Boston Summer Eats program. The sites for 2022 are not finalized yet, but we will have updates here once they are, and you can call 1-800-645-8333 to get the most up-to-date information from the city.
Pregnant women and children under 5 may be eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC). Immigration status is not relevant for WIC – you may qualify even if you don’t qualify for SNAP, and receiving WIC benefits will not impact your ability to apply for residency or citizenship. The only requirements are:
- Living in Massachusetts,
- Are a pregnant or nursing mother or care for a child under 5
- Have income below a certain level (if you receive MassHealth or SNAP you are automatically eligible)
- Have a nutritional need (this may include missing meals or vitamin deficiencies)
To apply for WIC, fill out this form to schedule a phone call with a program representative who can help you complete the process.
The WIC office for East Boston is at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. The phone number for their office is 617-568-6440, and their website is here. They can help you understand the program and assist with the process.
Certain food programs are available specifically to adults 55 and older.
The city of Boston’s Age Strong Commission helps manage a wide array of services that can help you with food. There are meal sites available across the city – you can find the nearest one by calling 617-635-4366.
If you have difficulty leaving your home or preparing meals, you may be eligible to receive home-delivered meals. You can check your eligibility by calling 617-292-6211.
The state also offers farmers’ market coupons for those 60 or older below a certain income level (refer to the table on this page). The coupons are distributed in July and August and are valid until October. To find out where to receive these coupons in Boston, contact Ethos at 617-522-6700 in May.
Emergency Food and Other Resources
If you aren’t eligible for SNAP, or if the amount you receive through these programs isn’t enough, there are other food resources you can access.
Fair Foods is an organization that provides food at a low cost ($3/bag) on a weekly basis, including produce, bakery goods, and prepared food. They have several sites throughout the city, including in East Boston. You can find out more on their website.
Many churches and charities operate soup kitchens, give away groceries, or host community fridges. We have put together a map of sites we know of in East Boston below. You can also call the Project Bread hotline at 1-800-645-8333 to find out about resources near you. Their website also has other resources, including a list of summer and holiday meal sites.
Eastie Farm Programs
As part of our mission, we make every effort to increase the amount of fresh produce that people can access in the neighborhood. We partner with the city to give access to farmers’ market coupons during the summer, work with other nonprofits such as the Boston Area Gleaners and Gaining Ground to bring produce in from local farms to distribute, and offer a CSA program from spring to fall which is available at a discount for those who need it.
We have finalized our food aid schedule, and you can find the latest updates on our calendar as we get them. You can also send “Food” to 617-207-6545 to get text notifications about our food events.