A brief description of the
Massachusetts Food System Plan
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is engaged in an exciting effort to develop its first comprehensive food system plan since 1974. In August, 2013, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) released a Request for Proposals (RFP) on behalf of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council (MFPC), seeking consultants to facilitate the development of this plan. The MFPC is a 17-member entity comprising state agency, legislative, and industry representatives, established by the Legislature and Governor in November, 2010 (MLG Chapter 20 Section 6C).
The RFP indicated that the planning process would involve “a process for stakeholder and agency involvement, an estimated timeline, a draft budget, and a general framework for goals and objectives that will improve Massachusetts’ agricultural economy, enhance the resiliency of the Commonwealth’s food system, and improve the nutritional health of the state’s population.” Consistent with the MFPC’s legislative mandate, the plan will have a heavy, but not exclusive emphasis, on food production in the Commonwealth and the economic viability of the agricultural sector.
After a selection process, MFPC chose the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and three partnering organizations (Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Franklin Regional Council of Governments, and Massachusetts Workforce Alliance) to facilitate the planning process and help to draft the plan.
The plan will develop goals and strategies to:
- Increase production, sales and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods;
- Create jobs and economic opportunity in food and farming, and improve the wages and skills of food system workers;
- Protect the land and water needed to produce food, maximize environmental benefits from agriculture, and ensure food safety; and
- Reduce hunger and food insecurity, increase the availability of healthy food to all residents, and reduce food waste.
These strategies will include legislative, regulatory, and budgetary recommendations, especially but not exclusively on the state level, as well as actions that can be taken by the federal and local governments, the business community, community-based or non-profit institutions, and others to advance the goals of the plan. The plan will include indicators for measuring progress and create a web-based tool to share information and promote collaboration among stakeholders.
As the planning process proceeds, participants are asked to consider the issues they bring to the table through the lens of three over-arching questions:
- What steps can we take to grow the economic impact of Massachusetts’ farm and food enterprises?
- How can we increase access to fresh, healthful and affordable food, in ways that achieve greater equity along lines of race, class, and income?
- How can Massachusetts increase the ability of the food system to withstand stresses related to climate change?
To advise the planning team and to guide the development of the Food System Plan, the MFPC endorsed a group of Project Advisors comprising approximately 30 members representing a wide array of interests and expertise. The MFPC further appointed a smaller Executive Committee to meet more frequently and to provide the planning team with more timely oversight. Most members of the Executive Committee serve as the “lead” of one of the project’s Working Groups and subgroups, which have primary responsibility for developing the key findings and recommendations in the planning process.
The following is a list of Working Groups:
- Food Access, Security, and Health
- Inputs, Waste Management, and Nutrient Recovery
- Production (including four subgroups: Farming, Fisheries, Land, and Urban Agriculture)
- Wholesale and Retail Distribution
The planning process involves significant public engagement, including regional meetings, an academic conference, and interviews with key stakeholders. MAPC has subcontracted with two additional organizations (Fertile Ground and the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness) to assist with outreach and engagement for often under-represented groups.
The planning process also has a significant research component. Much of the research is focused on gathering and synthesizing existing data and analysis on food production, distribution, and needs in Massachusetts. Planning team members, with the assistance of several renowned research institutions in the Commonwealth, are supplementing existing analyses with additional research in several key topic areas.
The Massachusetts Food System planning process is generously funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Kendall Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, the John Merck Fund, the Island Foundation, the Boston Foundation and the EOS Foundation.
Anyone interested in learning more about the planning process, contributing to the plan, or participating in this effort is encouraged to seek further information or to contact the planning team at www.mafoodplan.org.
Phase II of the Massachusetts Food System Plan has been signed as a contract amendment between MDAR on behalf of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the facilitating entity. The goal of the ongoing statewide initiative is to support increased consumption of Massachusetts agricultural and food products while preserving water and land resources, to support a strong, robust food system with less hunger, to provide more access to local and healthy foods, and to improve job and business opportunities.
Working Groups have been identified, offering an important opportunity to weigh in on what's happening in your local food system including on the farm, the food processing arena, in your community with food access and security and any other food system issues. These Working Groups are a platform to share what is being done well, challenges, and suggestions to improve our food system. Your input is important for to better understand the major strengths and obstacles in the region, and to support the development of a well-informed plan for the Massachusetts Food System going forward.
Five Working Groups
Agricultural and fisheries groups comprise the four Production sub-groups. Each meet independently to discuss relevant issues. These four sub-groups will be brought together by the Production Working Groups leads to discuss cross-sectoral issues, and develop recommendations for more coordination, synergy, and policies. Co Leads: Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Brad Mitchell, Mass Farm Bureau Production, email@example.com.
1. Farming: Land-based agricultural production that includes fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy.
Urban Agriculture: Land access and tenure, site remediation, innovations in production, production best practices, regulatory challenges and models, workforce training, business planning and marketing, community and back-yard food gardens Lead: Ruth Goldman, Merck Family Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Land Access and Management: Land availability and land management practices such as the use of preservation restrictions, zoning/regulations, land access and transfer, etc.
3. Fisheries: Fresh and near-shore salt water fish, shellfish and land-based aquaculture with a focus on increasing local market opportunities and consumption.
Food processing, animal slaughter, bottling, and packing facilities and services, as well as commercial kitchens, food business incubators, and food hubs. Lead: Nico Lustig, Western MA Food Processing Center Processing, email@example.com.
III. Wholesale and Retail Distribution:
Industries and activities that support the movement of food products at both the wholesale and retail levels, including transportation, warehousing, and aggregation and distribution, as well as the distribution to and through grocery stores, restaurants, farmers’ markets, CSA programs and on-line food purchasing platforms. It may also focus on wholesale and consumer demand for Massachusetts-produced food products and marketing opportunities. Lead: Jeff Cole, Federation of Mass. Farmers Markets, 'firstname.lastname@example.org.
IV. Food Access and Consumption / Hunger Relief and Public Health:
Public health, and food accessibility and affordability for individuals and families, hunger relief, transportation, demand for culturally appropriate food and the need for increased food preparation and preserving skills at the individual consumer level. Lead: Jessica del Rosario, Mass Convergence, email@example.com.
V. Inputs, Waste, and Nutrient Management:
Agricultural inputs including land, water, energy, soil, agricultural supplies (seeds and feeds) and on-farm equipment, machinery and other infrastructure, residential and municipal organic waste production and opportunities for organics waste recycling and renewable energy production. Coleads: Lorenzo Macaluso, Center For Eco-Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Jennifer Rushlow, Conservation Law Foundation, email@example.com.
To learn more about food systems planning in Massachusetts facilitated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council on behalf of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, go to www.mapc.org/massfoodplan
The first week of March 2014, The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) signed the contract with MDAR to facilitate the development of a strategic plan for the state‘s food system. The Massachusetts Food Policy Council is charged with finding ways to increase access to fresh nutritious food for all citizens of the Commonwealth. The goal of the plan is to build on the strengths reflected in the latest agriculture census and propose policies and programs to ensure – as best we can - that our farm economy will be as robust and resilient as possible in the years ahead. The intersection of production agriculture with processing, distribution, food security, food access and public health will be components of the plan. Phase II of the contract was signed January 8, 2015.
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council http://www.mapc.org, team includes Marc Draisen, Executive Director; Mary Prauss, Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Land Use Planner; David Elvin, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Senior Planner and Alex Risley Schroeder, MA Workforce Alliance
On November 7, 2010, the MA Food Policy Council was effective, enacted as Chapter 277 of the Acts of 2010, “An Act establishing the Massachusetts food policy council,” Statute M.G.L. c.20, Section 6C, creating the 17-member Food Policy Council (“FPC”).
The Council includes four members from the legislature including two from the House of Representatives, one appointed by the majority and one by the minority leader; and two members from the Senate, one appointed by the majority and one by the minority. Six members include representatives of various agencies within the Executive branch, and seven industry representatives are appointed by the Governor from groups within the food production and marketing chain.
Appointed members serve three-year terms or until a successor is appointed. The FPC chooses its own chair who serves for a maximum of two years. The FPC must meet periodically at the call of the chair but no less than 4 times a year. All meetings are public and the council keeps a record of its meetings and actions
The FPC appoints an advisory committee consisting of members of specific stakeholder groups. Other committees can be appointed to serve at the direction of the FPC.
The purpose of the FPC is to:
(1) increase production, sales and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods;
(2) develop and promote programs that bring healthy Massachusetts-grown foods to Massachusetts residents through various programs such as:
(i) targeted state subsidies,
(ii) increased state purchasing of local products for school and summer meals and other child and adult care programs,
(iii) double coupon initiatives,
(iv) direct market subsidies to communities with identified needs,
(v) increasing institutional purchases of Massachusetts-grown foods and other programs to make access to healthy Massachusetts products affordable, and
(vi) increasing access to healthy Massachusetts-grown foods in communities with disproportionate burdens of obesity and chronic diseases;
(3) protect the land and water resources needed for sustained local food production; and (
(4) train, retain and recruit farmers and to provide for the continued economic viability of local food production, processing and distribution in the commonwealth.
State Agency Members:
Secretary Jay Ash, MEOHED
Kerry Bowie, designee for Deputy Commissioner Gary Moran, MDEP
Katie Millet, designee for Commissioner of Education, MESE
Frank Martinez Nocito, designee for Commissioner Stacey Monahan, MDTA
John Lebeaux, Commissioner, MDAR
Legislative members (appointed by the Governor):
Representative Kimberly Ferguson
Senator Robert Hedlund
Representative Steve Kulik
Industry Members (appointed by the Governor):
Vivien Morris, MS, RD, MPH, LDN, Boston Public Health Commission, Community based nutrition and public health expert
Jeff Cole, Executive Director, MA farmers markets, direct to consumer marketing
Manuel Costa, President, Costa Fruit and Produce, Food processor and distributor
Helen Caulton-Harris, Springfield Board of Health, Local health department representative
John Lee, Allandale Farm, Farmer
Amanda Kinchla, M.S., Food Safety Extension Specialist, UMASS Amherst
John Waite, Food processor and handler
Advisory Committee Members
Shemariah Blum-Evitts, Lutheran Social Services’ New Lands Farm Program
Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust
James Harrison, The Food Project
Nancy Cohen, UMass
Christa Drew, MA Food Policy Alliance
Joe Schoenfeld, UMASS
Phil Korman of Community, Involved in Sustaining Agriculture
Brad Mitchell, Farm Bureau
Ellen Parker, Project Bread
Helen Rasmussen PhD, Tufts
The FPC must submit an annual report (except the first year) of its findings, conclusions, proposals, recommendations and progress toward reaching benchmarks.
To receive electronic notices of meetings and other materials related to the Council, please use the contact information below.