Fight for a better Hampshire County

As a public charity we can’t lobby, but we can still have positive impact. We can contact legislators. We can express needs for support. We can encourage others to do the same. Here are issues tied to our mission.

Poverty & Near Poverty

There’s more poverty in our region than most realize, much of it hidden in smaller, more rural communities. Over 12.5% of people in Hampshire County live in poverty and over 30% live near that edge. For these individuals and families, the cost of living outpaces what they earn. They struggle to meet basic needs like housing, food, transportation, health care, and education, Cash-strapped, they are forced to make impossible choices.

Our partner agencies work is tied to fighting poverty and near poverty. You can help. Learn about poverty-related legislation and contact your legislator.

Diversity, Equality & Inclusion

United Way of Hampshire County strives to be a model of diversity and inclusion. We respect, value, and celebrate the unique attributes, characteristics, and perspectives of every person. We believe that diversity is an asset for our organization and community. Therefore, It is our aim that our partners, strategies, and investments reflect diversity and inclusion. We recognize, like many Hampshire County organizations, that we have work to do, especially with people of color and underrepresented populations, but it is essential.

We have teamed with Cooley Dickinson Health Care on initiatives to create lasting and positive advancements in diversity and inclusion in our county.

Read our Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Statement of Principle

Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is our nation’s largest anti-hunger program. SNAP provides food access for those who cannot afford it – mostly children, seniors, and veterans. It is an important temporary lifeline for millions of Americans and thousands in Hampshire County – many of whom are in school or work but can’t make ends meet. We thank Congress for passing a bipartisan Farm Bill protecting and strengthening SNAP this past November (2018).

Join us and thank Congress. Write your representatives – it is never too late to show appreciation.  

Food insecurity and food deserts

Food insecurity impacts the ability of many Hampshire County residents to access food, especially healthier foods. Portions of Amherst, Northampton, Easthampton, and South Hadley have rates of food insecurity greater than 15% (source: Cooley Dickinson Health Care). In addition, parts of Northampton and Amherst are also considered “food deserts” where low-income people have limited access to groceries.

Homelessness

Hundreds of Hampshire County residents are homeless every night. United Way of Hampshire County is part of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness. The Network creates collaborative solutions to end homelessness through a housing first approach that prioritizes prevention, rapid re-housing, and housing stabilization.

You can help. Learn about legislation to end homelessness and contact your legislator.

Understanding the Difference Between Advocacy and Lobbying

It is important to recognize the difference between advocacy and lobbying. The two concepts are similar and often aligned, yet differ in some key ways that influence the work United Ways can do.

Since 501(c)(3) public charities – and we are one – can’t lobby, they tend to avoid advocacy. However, according to the IRS, lobbying is only when a group attempts to influence specific legislation by contacting or urging the public to contact “members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.”

This means that United Way can take actions like contacting a legislator to express needs for support. We just can’t encourage a legislator to vote a certain way on a particular piece of legislation.