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Julia_kehoe By DTA Commissioner Julia Kehoe

The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) assists low-income individuals and families to meet their basic needs, increase their incomes, and improve their quality of life.  DTA serves one out of every eight individuals in the Commonwealth – which includes working families, children, elders, and people with disabilities, among others.  Overseen by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), the agency ensures that the emergency and transitional needs of individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth are met through a combination of federally- and state-funded programs.

Massachusetts has a comprehensive system of programs and supports for individuals and families so they may achieve greater economic self-sufficiency.  One of the primary ways DTA assists residents with reaching their goals is through coordination with other state agencies, in particular, the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR).  Working together to maximize resources in creative ways affects change and assists families in need. 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly known as Food Stamps — provides critical nutritional support to low-income households in the Commonwealth by helping families and individuals buy nutritious and healthy food.  The program serves as the first line of defense against hunger.  SNAP is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is administered in Massachusetts by DTA.

During the last year, DTA has worked closely with DAR to benefit low-income residents and local farmers by increasing access to Massachusetts farmers’ markets.  Funding from DTA, Wholesome Wave, and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Foundation helped to subsidize the purchase or leasing of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machines by farmers’ markets as well as the creation of incentive programs aimed at increasing SNAP redemption at farmers’ markets.  As a result of these efforts, the number of Massachusetts farmers’ markets redeeming SNAP benefits nearly doubled to 58 of the Commonwealth’s 231 markets. 

This year, DTA continues its collaboration with DAR by launching a community service program at farmers’ markets.  DTA clients will gain valuable employment experience by volunteering as Farmers’ Market Ambassadors.  Participation in this program will also count toward meeting the Transitional Assistance for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) work requirements. 

As Farmers’ Market Ambassadors, DTA clients will take the lead administering EBT at their local farmers’ markets.  Based upon last year’s efforts, it was clear that word of mouth was the most effective means of advertising the program benefits.  Accordingly, Ambassadors will also assist with promoting the use of SNAP at farmers’ markets to eligible individuals and target communities.  Ambassadors will receive training from DAR on the details of SNAP, how to redeem SNAP benefits by operating the EBT machines, how to maintain proper records, and strategies for effective outreach.

Interested DTA clients must:

  • Receive cash assistance through Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC);
  • Have a reliable mode of transportation to and from the market (may include public transit);
  • Be able to work independently;
  • Have a friendly demeanor and ability to speak comfortably with strangers;
  • Be fluent in English
  • Be able to attend training;
  • And be willing and able to assist with market set-up and break-down activities. 

DTA and DAR selected the Boston area to pilot this exciting initiative which begins in May 2011.  Boston has a variety of farmers’ markets that are accessible via public transportation.  To find a farmers’ market near you, please visit http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/farmersmarkets/resources_consumers.htm.

DTA offices participating in the Farmers’ Market Ambassador Program include:

Newmarket Square: 1010 Mass Avenue, Boston, MA

  • Dudley Square: 2201 Washington Street, Roxbury, MA
  • Revere: 300 Ocean Blvd, Revere, MA

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering as a Farmers’ Market Ambassador, please contact April Myers at 617-348-8551.

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