Working toward a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable food system in Worcester

The Central MA Center on Food Equity (CFE) is a cohort of community individuals, front-line providers, research, and community partners that are working together to reduce hunger in Central Massachusetts.




Who We Are

The Center serves as an umbrella structure for 3 intersecting coalitions: The Worcester Food Policy Council, The Central MA SNAP Coalition, and the City of Worcester Taskforce on Food Security. The Center and the work of the coalitions are being funded by Worcester County Food Bank as part of its advocacy program.

Why It Matters

18 % Food Insecurity In Worcester

In 2018, Feeding America estimated that the food insecurity rate in Worcester would rise to nearly 18%. That rate is likely considerably higher because of the effects of the pandemic, and the loss of pandemic supports.
69 % Live More than a Mile from a Food Source

In 2016, Tufts University and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council compiled data on the distance people had to travel to access food. Based on the map, only about 31% of Worcester's surface area had a food source within 1 mile walking distance.
42 % SNAP Gap

The Department of Transitional Assistance calculates the SNAP Gap : the percentage of people who qualify for MassHealth who are not enrolled in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). As of July 2022, the SNAP Gap for Worcester County was 41.8%.
20 % Poverty Level

The American Community Survey estimates that 19.9% of people in Worcester live in households that are at or below the Federal Poverty Level. Many households about that threshold still struggle to afford food and rent, heating, and other household expenses.
8 % Poverty Rate for White Households with Children

While 1 in 5 Worcester households are at or below the poverty level, varies significantly based on neighborhood, ethnicity, age, and household composition.
36 % Poverty Rate for Black or Latino/a Households with Children

The Worcester County poverty rate for Black & Latino/a households ranges between 28 and 44%.

What We Do

01 Research Food Systems in Worcester
02 Advocate for people-centered policies and initiatives that increase food security for all
03 Compile and publicize available food resources in Worcester and surrounding towns
04 Collaborate with public agencies and private organizations to improve access to nutritious, culturally appropriate food.

Our Priorities

People can only access services and resources if they know they exist and understand how to access them. The Food Help Worcester website, maintained by the City of Worcester Task Force on Food Security, provides important information and ways to connect to needed resources.
We advocate for people-centered policies. As part of our mission, we make opportunities for the people most affected by food insecurity to tell their stories, putting them at the tables where decisions that affect their lives are made.
Using data from many sources, including community conversations, existing databases, and the experiences of services providers, we aim to develop action plans for specific communities/populations in Worcester, including, but not limited to families, undocumented people, college students, and the unhoused.
We are working to support and expand ways for all people in need to access the resources available through food pantries, meal services, and other programs, including consistent hours, and delivery options for those who need them.
Many people are unable to access existing food supports for various reasons. We explore and advocate for accessible food system deliveries for those most at risk of food insecurity.
The SNAP Restaurant Meals Program will allow older adults (60+), homeless individuals, and people with disabilities to buy food at authorized restaurants/food trucks using their SNAP EBT card. The state began enrolling food vendors in the RMP in the fall of 2022. We will continue to monitor and support the rollout of the program to ensure that the vendors represent an array of local food vendors and providers, and that qualified SNAP users are aware of and able to utilize the program.
After Congress declined to extend the Emergency SNAP allotments, Massachusetts authorized a partial extension of additional SNAP benefits to reduce the impact of the Hunger Cliff.
These efforts include but are not limited to supporting An Act to Encourage Food Donations, supporting food rescue programs, and exploring incentives for local food producers to donate produce to hunger-relief programs.
We will continue to work with the City administration and City Council to support initiatives that help reduce food insecurity and promote food resilience, such as an Urban Chicken Ordinance, and implementing housing policies that will make housing more affordable for all Worcester residents.
We have launched the Worcester Community Food Assessment, which will help us identify and evaluate existing food resources, identify gaps, and examine opportunities to increase food security and food resilience in Worcester and surrounding towns.
We will work with Worcester institutions to support food procurement policies, emphasizing partnerships with local businesses and food producers. These partnerships will support the local economy, and support a resilient and sustainable local food system.
Ensuring equitable food access for all is at the center of all we do. We emphasize the importance of employing a racial equity and resilience lens when developing and implementing policies and programs that affect food security and access.
The Worcester Together coalition, formed in the early days of the pandemic emergency, demonstrated the importance and efficacy of sharing resources, collaborating with each other, and involving the entire community in developing solutions. We will continue to strengthen and support a citywide food access food access network using the lessons learned.
Food and health are inextricably intertwined. We will support initiatives that focus on improving health outcomes and reducing or preventing the impact of chronic diseases.

Our Team