BOSTON — The first round of grants to food producing and distribution organizations that will help ensure that families struggling during the coronavirus pandemic have access to nutritious, locally grown food were announced Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The nearly $3 million in initial grants are going to 26 organizations, inlcuding the Springfield public schools, the Salem Food Pantry and the North of Boston Farm in Boxford.
The $485,000 grant to the Springfield schools will help the system provide meals to 25,000 students this fall. The Salem Food Pantry will use part of its $128,000 grant to buy a new van to bring food to people who cannot leave their homes, state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said.
The grants are part of the state’s $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program.
“During this pandemic, Massachusetts’ food supply chain has faced significant challenges and there is an urgent need for food security to support our most vulnerable residents,” the Republican governor said at a news conference at a Salvation Army facility in Lynn that has distributed 1.8 million meals during the pandemic.
“This new funding is a $3 million investment in the infrastructure we need to continue to respond to the impacts of the pandemic, while creating a system that provides more equitable access to nutritious, local food in the Commonwealth,” he said.
The Lynn facility was serving 70 families per day before the pandemic, but Bakjer said it is now helping 500 families per day.
Baker also addressed concerns about slow turnaround times for COVID-19 tests.
“We’ve been in many conversations with some of the larger national platforms about this turnaround time and I do believe that within the next several weeks we should see some improvements with respect to turnaround times,” Baker said.
While Massachusetts has a low statewide positive test rate, the issue would be more urgent if the state's rate was higher, he said.
Boston's mayor is defending his administration's decision to award a $1 million, no-bid contract to retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal's consulting firm to help with the city's coronavirus response.
Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh tells WGBH News that the McChrystal Group was retained to bring a military-style approach to coordinating and communicating among city agencies during the pandemic.
Documents obtained by the radio station show eight people from the Alexandria, Virginia-based firm worked with Boston, none with public health expertise.
Walsh maintained the administration couldn't follow the traditional public bidding process because of the urgency.
“This isn’t the typical no-bid contract,” he told the station. “This is where we had literally ten days before coronavirus just exploded all over.”
Walsh's office announced the McChrystal contract in late March, but the city has offered few details about the firm's work.
The administration said the work will likely be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with other virus-related expenses.
McChrystal commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Boston had awarded about $12 million in emergency contracts for its coronavirus response as of mid-June, the station reported.
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
The governing body of high school sports in Massachusetts has pushed back the start of the fall sports season until mid-September, but said the decision on whether to hold the fall season will depend on state government and health officials.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors, based on the recommendation of its COVID-19 task force, voted Tuesday to push back the start of fall sports until at least Sept. 14.
Practices originally were scheduled to begin Aug. 21 for football, and Aug. 24 for all other sports.
One reason the start date was pushed back was to allow administrators to get schools up and running again before worrying about sports.
The board also approved a recommendation to suspend its postgame handshake protocol.