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Healthy Food Access

MAPC

Promoting Smart Growth & Regional Planning

In Massachusetts, one in nine residents and one in six children faces food insecurity – meaning they don’t have access to enough affordable, nutritious food.

Food insecurity leads to a range of health and economic consequences, including poor diet, chronic disease, and substandard performance at work or school.

MAPC works with community and government organizations, nonprofits, and local restaurants, corner stores, and farmers markets to increase affordable, healthy foods for residents.

Massachusetts Food System Plan

Beginning in 2013, to strengthen the way residents of Massachusetts harvest, process, and obtain food, MAPC and project partners worked with food system experts – including producers, business owners, food system stakeholders, and consumers – to conduct a comprehensive assessment identifying the strengths in the Massachusetts food system and opportunities for improvement.

The plan – which was the first statewide food system plan since 1974 – was completed and accepted in December 2015 and included comprehensive goals for locally-grown food, job growth, food safety, agricultural land preservation, food security, and more. Learn more, view documents from the planning process, and check out our Municipal Food System Toolkit here.

Good Food Massachusetts: Programs that Connect People with Healthy and Affordable Food

This fact sheet gives brief descriptions of food assistance programs available to Massachusetts residents. It was created by the Healthy Eating Community of Practice as a resource for municipal staff interested in better understanding the programs available to their constituents -particularly families, students, and older adults that experience food insecurity. MAPC Public Health staff, who are active members of the Healthy Eating Community of Practice, contributed to the fact sheet.

Municipal Strategies to Increase Food Access

Staff from MAPC’s Public Health and Data Services teams partnered with students from Tufts University to analyze access to healthy food around Massachusetts. Between January and April of 2016, the project team created a framework for assessing food access statewide and mapped food index scores throughout the state.

SNAP and WIC Program at Farmers Markets

The Farmers Market Project is an initiative by the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Mass in Motion program to increase access to affordable and healthy food through farmers markets. Communities work with local farmers markets to accept SNAP and WIC cards. MAPC is advancing the project in communities across Middlesex County as part of the Middlesex County Community Transformation Grant. MAPC helps set up the program by facilitating the creation of a coordinating committees providing training and technical assistance on areas such as outreach and addressing barriers to farmers markets.

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About the Project

Massachusetts has a rich and diverse food system – from varied agriculture, to innovative food processing facilities, to initiatives to improve the health and affordability of food in our communities.

In 2013, in order to strengthen the ways we harvest, process, and obtain our food, the Massachusetts Food Policy Council initiated a process to craft a statewide Food System Plan that ties together the many elements of the Massachusetts food system. Creating the plan involved identifying gaps, gathering public input, and crafting an actionable strategy to make our food system serve our needs.

The food system is made up of every part of the process that puts food on our tables—from seed to plate.

Massachusetts Food System Collaborative

 

Statewide Partnership

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), as the project fiduciary and liaison to the FPC, contracted with MAPC to lead the food planning process. MAPC worked closely with its project partners: Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, the Franklin Region Council of Governments, and the Massachusetts Workforce Alliance. With our combined experience in food systems planning, public engagement, and economic development, the project team and its sister Regional Planning Agencies guided the Commonwealth through the development of the Massachusetts Food System Plan.

Partner websites:

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What's the Plan?

Through December 2015, the project team worked with food system experts - including producers, business owners, food system stakeholders, and consumers - to conduct a comprehensive assessment that identifies the current strengths of the Commonwealth's food system and opportunities for improvement. The project looked at all components of the food system (as shown above), as well as overarching areas, such as employment opportunities, public health improvements, and climate resiliency.

At the end of the planning process, Massachusetts had its first statewide food system plan since 1974. The plan established a comprehensive vision for the food system, including specific goals and an action plan to make the vision reality.

Why it's Important

The Massachusetts food system is vibrant in many ways, but the state also faces challenges. Local food production and markets are incredibly successful in Massachusetts, and are contributing to farm viability and improving access to healthy food. At the same time, Massachusetts deals with challenges such as losing farmland to development and high rates of obesity and diabetes. Through the food system planning process, we identified strategies for building upon the strengths and address the challenges of the Massachusetts food system.

Resources & Documents

public health

MAPC’s Public Health Committee meets regularly to discuss current and emerging health priorities at MAPC. 

MAPC | Government Affairs Team