Healthy Food Access

Healthy Food Access

Affordable healthy food. Working farmland. Thriving food businesses. Sustainable fisheries. Equitable food systems.

These are all vital to the health of communities and residents, and they’re aspects of a strong food system. Cultivating them on the local level requires thoughtful planning and policy and an understanding of how the food system functions as a whole.

Our food systems planning services apply an equity lens and integrate public health, land use, economic development, and sustainability to help municipal, institutional, and organizational partners with:

  • Supporting equitable community health and food access
  • Getting more vegetables and fruits into schools
  • Preserving agriculture
  • Encouraging urban agriculture
  • Connecting transportation systems to food retail
  • Growing food business opportunities


To learn more about how MAPC can support your community's food system planning,  contact Heidi Stucker at / 617.933.0739 or Jessika Brenin at / 617.933.0744.

Recent Highlights

Value-Based School Food

Healthy trays of food in a collage on a green background.

Massachusetts Food Systems Database

Food Systems Map

COVID-19 Mass in Motion Memo


Cambridge Community Food Action Plan

Hurley Street urban farm

Resources and Publications

Food Systems Map

Massachusetts Food Systems Database

Produced by MAPC, 2022

MAPC’s Food Systems Database is a compilation of frequently-requested Massachusetts food systems data in two formats: a map and a table. The Map enables users to easily make customized maps with the purpose of building understanding of local food system conditions and related health and demographic information at the neighborhood-level. The Table allows users to access and download datasets for independent use.


Massachusetts Community Food Systems Plans

A community food plan synthesizes community members’ shared vision for their food system and serves as a guide for advocates and municipal officials to make strategic changes. Plans make action-oriented recommendations for policy and programmatic changes. MAPC has provided technical assistance on many community food plans, particularly those conducted by Mass in Motion communities. We are available to support your community's efforts as well!


COVID-19 Mass in Motion Memo

This research sought to understand how Mass in Motion functioned and adapted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to support food security and physical activity, with the intention of identifying promising or proven solutions for lasting policy, systems, and environmental change. Mass in Motion coordinators participated in initial surveys in 2020 to document their activities during the first months of the pandemic. Follow up surveys in 2021 and 2022 sought to understand what activities were sustained, added, or stopped as we transition to long-term COVID response. 

Mass Food Plan Twitter Pic

Food Policy Councils: Policy and Bylaws Templates

This example language can be used to establish food policy councils in Massachusetts. These are practical templates that can be modified to suit the needs and interests of your community.

The MA Model Policy to Establish a Food Policy Council supports establishing a food policy council through a “formal” municipal process, where a local government votes to form a new multi-member body in the City or Town.

The MA Model Local Food Policy Council Bylaws provides further detail about how the food policy council will function and establishes the principles that will guide the council. All food policy councils benefit from having bylaws in place that describe the common interest of the council, expectations of membership, and details about how the council functions.

Produced by Emily Nink, Food Policy and Strategy Consultant in coordination with MAPC, 2021

School girl holding food tray in school cafeteria

Model Language for Healthier School Food

This model language can be used to create Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for school food service management company services. It includes draft language for an RFP's evaluation criteria and scope of work sections. The language can be used procure nutritious, local food in Massachusetts public schools.

Produced by MAPC and MAHB, 2019

Kendall Community Garden
Hurley street urban farm

Health Lens Analysis of Urban Agriculture Policy Cambridge

MAPC’s Public Health Department partnered with the Cambridge Public Health Department to conduct a health lens analysis (HLA) of its urban agriculture policies. The HLA assesses the potential social, environmental, nutritional, and economic impacts of the proposed policy, and makes recommendations for implementing the policy to maximize benefits and equity.

Produced by MAPC, 2019

peppers overhead

A Legal Guide for Community Kitchens in Massachusetts

This guide provides advice for making shared use of kitchens a success in your community in Massachusetts. It provides an overview of the legal issues to consider when starting or using a community kitchen and is meant to serve a starting point for your planning process. The information is targeted to organizations that host community kitchens and the community groups and entrepreneurs that use them, as well as allies and partners seeking to facilitate connecting potential users and kitchen managers.

Produced by Conservation Law Foundation’s Legal Food Hub in partnership with MAPC, 2018

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Everett Good Food for All PhotoVoice Magazine

The Everett Good Food for All PhotoVoice was conducted as part of the Everett Community Food Assessment & Plan. A community-based participatory research tool, the PhotoVoice empowered community members to articulate their vision for a better Everett food system as an important part of the planning process.

Produced by MAPC, 2018


Municipal Strategies to Improve Food Access Toolkit

This resource presents over 50 things cities and towns can do to improve food access and build strong food systems. The toolkit includes descriptions of each strategy, relevant case studies, example model bylaws, and links to additional resources. The toolkit is a springboard for action for municipal staff and board members, Mass in Motion coordinators, and community advocates.

Produced by Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and MAPC, 2016

Rockland_FarmersMarket_KUedit (1 of 1)

Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan

The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan on lays out statewide goals for increasing agricultural and seafood production, food security, workforce training and employment, and protecting natural resources, and serves as the guide for state food policy priorities and action. The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative was established at the completion of the Plan, and coordinates its implementation.

Produced by MAPC and partners on behalf of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, 2015

Women holding delicious fresh vegetables

Municipal Food Systems Planning Toolkit for MAPC Communities

A toolkit for municipal officials working with agricultural producers, residents, and other stakeholders to identify food systems priorities in terms of economic development, health, conservation, equity, and education. It is intended to guide communities through the food planning process, and includes several additional tools and resources.

Produced by CLF Ventures and MAPC, 2013

Food Policy

The Public Health Department and the Government Affairs Division partner to identify and advance state food policy that align with MAPC priorities and Public Health objectives. (Read more about MAPC's Legislative Priorities here.) In recent years we have advocated for passage of legislation, including:

Closing the SNAP Gap: An Act Improving Public Health Through a Common Application for Core Food, Health and Safety Net Programs

This legislation addresses the fact that an estimated 680,000 people who are receiving MassHealth are likely also eligible for the SNAP program, but not enrolled. Delivering benefits to eligible individuals supports them in meeting their basic needs; lowers healthcare costs; and generates an estimated $1.5 billion in economic stimulus.

Breakfast After the Bell: An Act Regarding Breakfast in the Classroom

Breakfast After the Bell aims to address these barriers and increase participation by requiring that high poverty schools serve breakfast at the beginning of the instructional day, after the bell. Serving breakfast once class has started ensures all students are able to eat – especially important for the majority of the State’s most vulnerable students who are not currently eating school breakfast.

Healthy Incentives Program: An Act Establishing the Healthy Incentives Program

Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) applies a one-dollar incentive on every Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit dollar spent on vegetables and fruits when purchased at eligible SNAP retailers. This bill would permanently establish an incentives program that would ensure sustainability of HIP, and establish an incentives fund.