BOSTON /Massachusetts Newswire/ — The Patrick-Murray Administration announced Monday that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Massachusetts a High Performance Bonus Award for its exceptional administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This is the sixth consecutive year of outstanding performance by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), which administers the federal program in the Commonwealth.

Kevin Concannon, USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, presented the bonus award to DTA Commissioner Julia E. Kehoe at the Department’s Revere office. DTA was awarded $1,548,018 for being among the six states with the highest percentage of timely processed SNAP applications during Fiscal Year 2008.

“The SNAP program is great example of federal and community partners standing together to improve access to healthy food and reduce hunger in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “I applaud the DTA staff for their dedication to assisting Massachusetts families and individuals meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life.

“Despite these challenging economic times, the staff at DTA has continued to demonstrate a standard of excellence, and this recognition is a testament to their work,” said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services.

SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is funded by USDA and aims to ensure that individuals and families in need have access to nutritious food.

“Over the past five years, DTA has received nearly $6 million in bonuses from USDA,” said DTA Commissioner Julia Kehoe. “This year, the honor is particularly meaningful, given our staff’s herculean efforts to ensure individuals and families receive this critical nutritional benefit as quickly as possible. In the past year alone, the Massachusetts SNAP caseload has increased by thirty percent. With this bonus award, our success in SNAP will contribute to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty among low-income households in our state.”

USDA has also awarded an additional $500,000 to DTA and Project Bread to broaden SNAP outreach and education to the Massachusetts Latino population. The goal of the pilot project is to identify and enroll low-income working Latinos — those working at or near minimum wage, those underemployed and those recently unemployed, into SNAP. Project Bread will achieve this goal by launching a comprehensive media and educational outreach campaign aimed at working Latinos; creating and distributing a SNAP application toolkit in Spanish; recruiting Latino-serving community partners in Chelsea and Worcester to conduct intensive outreach among a variety of businesses, health centers, and social service agencies; assigning a SNAP Outreach Coordinator to each city to provide full-time application assistance and follow-up to the target population in order to successfully enroll those eligible; and producing a “Train the Trainer Curriculum” to be disseminated to community partners.

“We are pleased to have this opportunity to work with DTA to help the Latino communities in Chelsea and Worcester access SNAP to provide healthy meals for their families,” said Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread. “Latinos in Massachusetts have been more severely impacted by skyrocketing unemployment and face seemingly insurmountable barriers when they seek help. Project Bread is committed to reaching these families in places where they feel safe and understood and walking them through the SNAP process so that they can provide themselves with the healthy food they need to grow and thrive.”

“During these challenging economic times as SNAP caseloads continue to rise, we had to face some difficult budget realities this fiscal year, including scaling back our own outreach efforts,” said Commissioner Kehoe. “Through it all, Project Bread has remained a steadfast partner and I am confident their pilot programs will have outstanding results.”

For nearly 20 years, Project Bread has worked on state and local levels to fully enroll Massachusetts residents in federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs, the Summer Meals Programs and the After-School Snack Program, bringing in hundreds of millions of federal dollars into the Commonwealth’s economy.

DTA issues more than $87 million in SNAP benefits each month. That represents more than $1 billion per year in economic activity for the Commonwealth, since each dollar in SNAP assistance generates nearly $2 in economic activity for the state.

About SNAP
SNAP serves more than 670,000 individuals in Massachusetts by assisting low-income individuals and families with purchasing healthy food. The program is federally funded and serves as the first line of defense against hunger. Individuals, families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities who are having difficulty meeting their basic needs are encouraged to apply for SNAP benefits by visiting, calling 1-866-950-FOOD, or visiting their local DTA office.

About the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)
DTA’s mission is to assist low-income individuals and families to meet their basic needs, increase their incomes and improve their quality of life. Located within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department ensures that the emergency and transitional needs of the individuals and families of the Commonwealth are met through a combination of federal- and state-funded programs. Massachusetts has a comprehensive system of programs and supports to provide to individuals and families in need in order to achieve greater economic self-sufficiency.

About Project Bread — The Walk for Hunger
As the state’s leading anti-hunger organization, Project Bread is dedicated to alleviating, preventing, and ultimately ending hunger in Massachusetts. Through The Walk for Hunger, the oldest continual pledge walk in the country, Project Bread provides millions of dollars each year in privately donated funds to more than 400 emergency food programs in 128 communities statewide. Project Bread also advocates systemic solutions that prevent hunger and that provide food to families in natural, everyday settings, including schools. Over the last four years, the organization has invested over $2 million in grants to community organizations that feed children where they live, learn, and play.