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Thousands Wait In Lines At Food Pantries. They Could Be Shopping At Grocery Stores

Originally published on GBH.

A growing number of people in Massachusetts are accessing SNAP benefits. Between March and June of last year, households enrolled in SNAP grew by 19% over pre-pandemic rates, according to the Department of Transitional Assistance, which oversees the SNAP program in Massachusetts. Yet, by the DTA’s own estimates, more than 700,000 low-income residents who receive health insurance through MassHealth are also likely eligible for SNAP.

“There is no combined application mechanism at this time, though the information you submit for MassHealth is the information you submit for SNAP, and that just makes no sense whatsoever,” said Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, executive director of Children’s Health Watch.

The state plans to pilot new data systems to create a common application and bridge what’s called the “SNAP Gap.” But receiving SNAP benefits doesn’t always mean leaving the food pantry behind.