GRANBY, Mass. (WWLP) – Local farmers are celebrating the return of the Healthy Incentives Program, otherwise known as HIP! 

Legislators want to expand access to HIP benefits year-round. 

A small celebration at Red Fire Farm was held in Granby Thursday, marking the return of HIP. Their mission is to raise awareness and support for HIP, and for people who need help buying fresh food. 

“So, having a program that supports getting the funds needed for sharing that with lower-income folks has made a really big difference for us to reach them,” said Sarah Voiland, co-owner of Red Tire Farm. 

HIP is an incentive program, which reimburses SNAP dollars when you used them to buy local produce. But you must have money on your EBT card to access these benefits. 

Senator Eric Lesser told 22News, the HIP program provides fresh, nutritious food to people in need, while supporting local farms that grow that food. 

“We need this program to be year-round. It’s been very successful,” Lesser told 22News. “We have tens of thousands of people participating and farms across the state participating, but there’s been gaps. We know for example, last year in the winter they ran out of funds and they had to stop in the middle of the year.” 

Easthampton State Representative Dan Carey said they want to make sure people who are on SNAP know about the HIP benefits. 

“We’ve got such a great abundance of farms out here in western Mass, and while HIP is a state-wide program and folks are benefiting from it across the state,” said Rep. Carey. “Out here our farms and our farmer’s markets are really benefiting from it as well.” 

Voiland told 22News to prevent another gap in service next winter, advocates are demanding an increase in program funding to $8.5 million. 

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