In December 2015 MAPC and allies released the first food policy plan for the state of Massachusetts since the 1970s. The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan is a planning guide rich with recommendations for the 21st century economy, from fishing towns to food trucks and urban and rural farms.
In 2013, the Massachusetts Food Policy Council engaged MAPC to to develop a “vision and plan to increase agricultural production, processing, and distribution that will serve as economic stimulus and address multiple related public health and food security issues.”
The initiators of the plan envisioned “a strong, abundant, and resilient food system that is rooted in communities; provides quality jobs; contributes to a vibrant economy; utilizes, enriches, and sustainably manages our State’s natural resources; and supplies healthy, affordable, and accessible food for all residents of the Commonwealth.”
MAPC, along with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and the Massachusetts Workforce Alliance as partners, conducted research, held public forums, and coordinated working groups, ultimately engaging with more than 1,500 people to understand the existing conditions of the state’s food system, and develop goals and recommendations to make it more sustainable and equitable.
Food is important to everyone; the public’s input was vital to this project.
Photos in this article feature Food Day at the Massachusetts State House and community engagement at local farmers markets.
Topics of conversation ran the gamut and focused on cross-sectoral issues, such as how public transportation impacts access to healthy foods for some communities, and how regulations can both foster and hinder innovation and the growth of small businesses and farms.
Goals, Actions, and Needs
The Massachusetts legislature, state administration, nonprofits and businesses invested in good food system change will work towards the main goals of the Plan:
- Produce more: Increase production, sales, and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods;
- Support good food work: Create jobs and economic opportunity in food and farming, and improve the wages and skills of food system workers;
- Steward and sustain: Protect the land and water needed to produce food, maximize environmental benefits from agriculture and fishing, and ensure food safety; and
- Food for all: Reduce hunger and food insecurity, increase the availability of healthy food to all residents, and reduce food waste.
The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan recommends hundreds of specific actions. From these actions, four overarching needs emerged:
- We need more information and educational resources to improve the growth potential of the local food system.
- We need to review and reform the regulatory process to support food production in Massachusetts.
- We need to support farms, fishermen, and food businesses in learning new skills,
- and we need to invest money to spur new growth in our food system.
The Plan was published in December 2015, and accepted by the Food Policy Council. Public agencies, legislators, and private and nonprofit stakeholders are now working to prioritize items in the Plan that fit with their respective missions, and collaborating toward implementation of key parts of the plan. The plan is available online, at www.mafoodplan.org.