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Breaking the cycle of hunger.

Project Bread

Combining passion and public policy, Project Bread seeks to ensure everyone in Massachusetts has reliable access to healthy foods. Star Market has supported the work of this nonprofit through its GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program.

Tell us about Project Bread.

Project Bread is the leading anti-hunger organization statewide in Massachusetts. Our mission is to connect people and communities to reliable food sources while advocating for practices and policies that make it more accessible. This way, no one ever goes hungry. We envision a Massachusetts where hunger is permanently solved for everyone.

We make it easier for people to access and afford food with dignity by offering comprehensive case management to MassHealth* patients experiencing food insecurity, advocating for and supporting the implementation of healthy meals for kids in their schools and all summer long, and providing an expert to help you navigate your options to make ends meet.

Project Bread was initially founded in 1969 with the inaugural Walk for Hunger. That was a charity walk established by people in Massachusetts who wanted to help food-insecure people. Our nonprofit is a continuation of that legacy. We’ve expanded the organization since then.

*In Massachusetts, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are combined into one program called MassHealth

What sets you apart from other nonprofit organizations in your community?

The organization focuses on driving systemic change by engaging residents, elected officials and businesses to act against hunger so that everybody across Massachusetts has reliable access to healthy foods.

Many times with food pantries, you can get food for just that day or perhaps the week, but there’s still a gap in solving hunger long-term. The assistance we provide around SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) ensures that people have reliable funds on a long-term basis. SNAP can be confusing, and it can be hard to navigate the application, so the help we provide around this, in over 180 languages and with a compassionate, expert ear, is critical.

Our healthcare partnerships team assists with areas of food insecurity you might not think about. There can be specific medical issues with someone, which makes it even harder when they’re food insecure. They might have to have a particular diet, such as only consuming liquids, but they can’t afford a blender. It might be hard for them to get to the grocery store. We fill those gaps so that every area around food insecurity is dealt with.

The organization focuses on driving systemic change by engaging residents, elected officials and businesses to act against hunger so that everybody across Massachusetts has reliable access to healthy foods.

What services do you provide to the community?

We accomplish our mission in quite a few different ways. The Project Bread programs team runs the FoodSource Hotline, which connects residents to trained counselors who can pre-screen for SNAP and get them to their local food bank.

We also work to connect medical patients experiencing food insecurity to transportation assistance and nutrition counseling, in addition to grocery store gift cards and kitchen supplies, to support positive and sustained health outcomes.

We distribute grants that support local anti-hunger community partners and foster idea-sharing between all the great Massachusetts anti-hunger organizations.

Project Bread supports schools and summer meal providers to help feed kids. Our Chef Educators train school nutritional staff with recipe development and ideas on healthy meals for kids.

Our research team tracks food insecurity data, and we are regularly conducting studies around hunger. Then, our policy team uses all this information to advocate for state and federal legislation to advance large-scale systemic changes.

We approach hunger insecurity in Massachusetts as a team effort. Nothing is more important than being connected to the community leaders and organizations specifically working to meet their neighborhoods’ needs.

Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.

Our work with SNAP, informally called food stamps, makes a massive difference for the food-insecure population of Massachusetts. SNAP can be used in many different retail establishments, including Star Market.

In 2021, Project Bread published research showing that SNAP is one of the most utilized and beneficial nutrition assistance programs in the United States. In 2020 alone, 3.2 million people were taken out of poverty because of SNAP and its assistance benefit. Despite all that success, a large portion of the population is qualified but still needs to enroll for these benefits. Getting people signed up for something that can be helpful to them is a large part of our mission.

There are lots of reasons why people don’t sign up. For example, there is lots of misinformation, stigma, lack of awareness and difficulty applying. To help combat the scarcity of knowledge, we launched a full-scale awareness campaign to reach people across Massachusetts. We did some of this outreach through billboards, transit signs and mailing thousands of postcards in multiple languages to spread information about the program. We encourage people to either visit or call our FoodSource hotline. We have 180 languages we can talk to people in, which has been a great resource.

Massachusetts also recently included in the FY23 state budget a provision to implement a common application between MassHealth and SNAP, reducing the paperwork and navigation people must go through when they often qualify for both services. This has been one of Project Bread’s policy priorities since early 2021, and it shows what we can do at Project Bread. We see a problem and then try to help solve it. We have enough food in the state of Massachusetts to feed everyone. We must figure out how to get it to people.

We see a problem and then try to help solve it. We have enough food in the state of Massachusetts to feed everyone. We must figure out how to get it to people.

What is your greatest achievement or contribution to the community?

I’m most proud of our work around school meals. Project Bread partnered with Massachusetts state legislators to lobby for universal free school meals during the pandemic. This was extremely helpful for families during such a stressful time. And this was something that should continue, so through our Feed Kids Coalition campaign, we extended the free school lunches into the 2022 to 2023 school year.

Four hundred thousand children are being fed at no cost to their families this year through our Feed Kids Coalition. Making sure kids are fed is essential and is an important goal of our organization. Universal school meals are a fantastic way to accomplish this goal. Massachusetts is one of only five states doing that.

What do you want people to know about Project Bread?

The most significant thing people need to know is that hunger isn’t always visible. You never know who’s struggling with food insecurity. Sometimes people will have periods of their life where they’re struggling, and other times, they don’t need assistance. As we go into the holiday season, it’s often a time when people think about food insecurity and make donations, which is lovely. However, Project Bread is a year-round organization. Individuals and families are regularly struggling with not having enough food to eat. Increasing understanding about who is hungry in the community is something we strive to do. Hopefully, through that understanding comes compassion that creates action throughout the year.

Through all our programs, Project Bread’s goal is to ensure that individuals and families who are food insecure can connect to reliable food sources. Hunger is a solvable problem; there is enough food for everybody in this state, and access to it is possible year-round.

How are you using the funds you’ve received from the Star Market GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program?

The funds from the Star Market GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program go into our general fund, which helps support every aspect of our organization. All our programs, research and policy work are supported through these finances. We are so grateful to continue to be a part of this beautiful program.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

If any Massachusetts residents are experiencing food insecurity or know someone we could help, call Project Bread. Our toll-free food source hotline is 1-800-645-8333. It provides confidential assistance in 180 languages. And you can also help support Project Bread’s year-round anti-hunger efforts by going to

Erin McAleer is President & CEO of Project Bread. She joined the organization in October 2017.

Published December 8, 2022.