State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, has been named the 2016 Public Advocate of the Year by the Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts for his successful efforts to increase state funding for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program.

MEFAP is a state program that provides meals to needy families through the four regional food banks and their network of 842 local providers.

The funding provided through this line item helps these local and regional entities leverage additional federal, private and nonprofit dollars to feed hundreds of thousands of residents throughout the Commonwealth.

An amendment filed by Downing to the fiscal 2016 budget increased MEFAP funding from $15 million to $17 million last year.