The "Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan" was accepted by the MA Food Policy Council on December 10, 2015. In addition to initiatives from the MA Food Policy Council to move forward, the MA Food System Collaborative, http://mafoodsystem.org is worked toward making some of the key recommendations in the Plan come to fruition. This is the Commonwealth’s first comprehensive Food Action Plan since 1974, bringing to a close nearly two years of study in collaboration with more than 1,000 local farmers, consumers, advocates, policy makers and other stakeholders in the state’s food system.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, in collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Franklin Regional Council of Governments, and Massachusetts Workforce Alliance, worked with constituents across the state to develop the plan.
The plan was designed to increase production, sales and consumption of Massachusetts-grown food; create jobs and improve wages in food and farming; protect the land and water needed to produce food, while maximizing the environmental benefits of agriculture and fishing; ensure food safety; and reduce waste, hunger and food insecurity, while making available more fresh, healthy food to everyone who lives here. The plan offers recommendations for the public and private sectors to see these goals through to fruition.
A brief description of the Massachusetts Food System Plan
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 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. Phase II of the contract was signed January 8, 2015. The public release the draft Massachusetts Food Systems Plan was held on October 23, 2015 in conjunction with a celebration of Food Day and the beginning of a two week public open-comment period. The "Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan" was accepted by the MA Food Policy Council on December 10, 2015.
The plan developed 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 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 includes indicators for measuring progress and creates a web-based tool to share information and promote collaboration among stakeholders.
As the planning proceeded, participants were 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 served 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.
- 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 involved significant public engagement, including regional meetings, an academic conference, and interviews with key stakeholders. MAPC 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 had a significant research component. Much of the research focused on gathering and synthesizing existing data and analysis on food production, distribution, and needs in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Food System planning process was 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.