May 02, 2017
May 2017 MA Food System Collaborative newsletter
To read the May 2017 issue of the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative's newsletter, click here.
May 02, 2017
To read the May 2017 issue of the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative's newsletter, click here.
April 03, 2017
April 4 is the annual Ag Day at the State House event, when advocacy and trade groups gather in Boston to educate legislators about policy priorities for farmers. The legislature is considering several dozen bills related to the food system this session, from land preservation issues to food waste, and the MA Food System Collaborative has compiled a white paper highlighting priority legislation and budget items. 28 food system organizations signed on to the white paper, representing thousands of farmers and other constituents.
April 01, 2017
Food Banks originally started to supply food to people who were experiencing emergency situations, such as the loss of a home to fire or natural disaster, or perhaps an unexpected job loss. These were short-term needs that the world of charity could address. What we are seeing now, however, is an on-going need for food pantries and community meal programs. People seeking food assistance are from every walk of life – people with advanced degrees, military veterans, single parents, retired elders, working families, people living with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. For each person who needs to seek food assistance on a regular basis, it feels like one on-going emergency, but often a forgotten one in the public eye. We know that there is no shortage of food in our country, or in the world, but rather too many people cannot access food. For this reason, the Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB) believes that food is a fundamental right and that hunger is an issue of social justice.
Addressing a lack of access to food is more complicated than addressing short-term emergencies. Identifying the barriers and testing solutions takes much more time, sustained effort, a variety of partners, and creativity. People who are seeking food assistance on an on-going basis are generally struggling with insufficient income compared to the basic costs of living. This may mean that they are working and are not earning enough to live due to low wages, or perhaps that they can no longer work due to age or a disability, yet the money they receive from Social Security is not sufficient to cover their basic costs.
There are two ways that we can address a couple of barriers in Massachusetts through legislation, both of which are top priorities for the Worcester County Food Bank, and are goals embedded in the MA Local Food Action Plan.
The WCFB is advocating for legislation related to both of these barriers, and we are doing so with broad coalitions that also understand their importance in supporting our local food systems. In order for people to be able and willing to support a local food system, they must have purchasing power. To learn more about these and other advocacy efforts the WCFB is engaged in, visit https://foodbank.org/learn-more/advocacy/ or contact Liz Sheehan Castro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Liz Sheehan Castro, Director of Advocacy, Worcester County Food Bank
March 29, 2017
The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative is hiring!
Position: Communications Specialist
Reports to: Director
Hours: 20 weekly
Term: 1 year, with potential for continuation depending upon funding availability.
Wage: $20/hour, (IRS-1099, no benefits)
Start date: ASAP
About the MA Food System Collaborative:
The MA Food System Collaborative was established in 2016 to promote, monitor, and facilitate implementation of the MA Local Food Action Plan. The Plan is a comprehensive set of recommendations toward a sustainable, equitable food system for the Commonwealth. The Collaborative works to encourage progress toward the goals of the Plan through education, networking, and advocacy. Learn more about the Collaborative at www.mafoodsystem.org.
The Communications Specialist will work with the Director to plan and execute a communications strategy that amplifies the work of the Collaborative and its allies, encourages broad engagement in projects the Collaborative supports, and educates the general public about the value of a sustainable, equitable food system. This is a new position, and is critical to the success of the Collaborative.
Send cover letter, resume, and 2-3 writing samples (links OK) to Winton Pitcoff, Director: email@example.com.
Applications accepted until April 7, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.
February 01, 2017
Members of the MA State Legislature have introduced more than 5,000 bills for the 2017-18 session, many of them related to the Commonwealth’s food system. A number of these bills would take action toward the goals of the MA Local Food Action Plan.
Legislators are being asked to co-sponsor bills right now. This is an opportunity for citizens to reach out to their senators and representatives, let them know about bills that are important to them and their communities, and ask for their support. Below are some bills that directly relate to the Collaborative’s priorities.
Please contact your senators and representatives by Friday, February 3, and ask them to co-sponsor any of the bills below that are important to you or your organization. To find your legislators, visit: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator. Call or email them, and tell them:
Many of the bills below include links to the full text of the legislation – where there is no link, the language has not yet been posted.
Note that getting co-sponsors for these bills is just a first step – throughout the two-year legislative session there will be hearings, opportunities to advocate for language that strengthens the bills, and votes. But now is a great opportunity to make legislators aware of the bills and issues that you care about, and to build support for key pieces of legislation so that they are more likely to make their way through the legislative process this session.
An Act Relative to Agricultural Commission Input on Board of Health Regulations
Representative Stephen Kulik
Would require municipal boards of health to seek input from their local agricultural commission before implementing changes to existing regulations or new regulations that impact farms or farmers markets.
An Act promoting agriculture in the Commonwealth
Senator Anne M. Gobi
Representative Paul Schmid
Also known as the “Ag Omnibus bill,” this bill contains provisions that would, among other things: allow non-contiguous land to be considered for the 5-acre minimum for enrollment in Chapter 61A; allow raw milk dairies to deliver milk to customers; allow for land held by the Department of Conservation and Recreation to be used for community gardens and farmers markets; and establish a committee to develop a farmland protection and viability plan.
An Act relative to updating the plumbing code in order to accommodate agricultural uses
Representative Leonard Mirra
Would create a committee to make recommendations on possible changes to the State Plumbing Code, with the intent of creating provisions for agricultural projects, to alleviate the burden of the commercial plumbing code that farms must currently follow.
An Act to establish estate tax valuation for farms
Representative Kate Hogan
Senator Kathleen O'Connor Ives
Would exempt farmland from the Massachusetts estate tax as long as it remains in agriculture for at least 10 years, in order to keep more land in farming by reducing the likelihood of heirs needing to remove agricultural land from production in order to sell it to pay the tax burden.
An Act to Promote Urban Agriculture and Horticulture
Senator Linda Dorcena Forry
Representative Elizabeth A. Malia
Would allow cities with population over 50,000 to adopt an optional property tax break for land used for urban agriculture, as a way of promoting the health, economic, and environmental benefits of growing crops in cities.
An Act Relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program
Representative Paul Mark
Would lay the groundwork for the long-term sustainability of the Healthy Incentives program, which matches, dollar-for-dollar, SNAP households’ purchases of fresh, healthy, local foods.
An Act improving public health through a common application for core food, health and safety-net programs
Senator Sal N. DiDomenico
Would streamline the application process to multiple supportive programs, as a way of ensuring that families that receive benefits from one program are better able to take advantage of all of the benefits they are entitled to.
An Act Relative to Healthy Eating in School Cafeterias
Representative Jennifer E. Benson
Would establish pilot programs to support schools in upgrading their kitchens to do more scratch cooking and give mini-grants for farm to school programming, and set parameters for a Farm to School Interagency Task Force that would bring together stakeholders to strategize ways to support and spread farm to school programs across the Commonwealth.
An Act to Promote Breakfast in the Classroom
Senator Sal DiDominico
Representative Aaron Vega
Would require that all public K-12 schools that are required to serve breakfast (where at least 60% or more students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program) offer all students a school breakfast after the bell.
An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need
Senator Eileen M. Donoghue
Would relieve individual and business food donors from liability for injury arising out of the condition of donated food, and allow farms to claim a tax deduction for the value of donated crops.
An Act decreasing food waste by standardizing the date labeling of food
Senator Eileen M. Donoghue
Would establish standard language for food date labels, reducing confusion and the often unnecessary disposal of food that is still safe to eat.
An Act relative to direct food donations
Senator Ryan C. Fattman
Would relieve individual and business food donors from liability for injury arising out of the condition of donated food, often cited as a barrier to donations and resulting in wasted food.
An Act authorizing school districts to donate excess food to local voluntary assistance programs
Senator Barbara A. L'Italien
Would direct the state board of elementary and secondary education to develop voluntary guidelines for school districts to encourage and facilitate donation of excess food from school cafeterias to groups that distribute food to underserved communities.
January 04, 2017
Data from the first extensive survey of local food sales in the U.S. shows that Massachusetts farmers are national leaders in sales of food products directly to consumers.
Massachusetts ranks fifth nationally in direct to consumer sales from farms, with $136 million in sales in 2015 from farmers markets, farmstands, community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations, and other farmer-run retail outlets, according to the USDA’s 2015 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey. This number is made even more significant when noted that the other high-ranking states include California, New York, and other large agricultural states, while Massachusetts ranks only 47th among all states in total cash receipts for farms, according to 2015 data from USDA. In fact, when direct-to-consumer sales are measured against total farm sales, Massachusetts leads the nation.
The survey also ranked Massachusetts eighth among states based on total direct farm sales, with $229 million in sales from farms directly to institutions, retailers, and local distributors, as well as consumers. A total of 2,426 Massachusetts farms combined for these sales. $75 million of these sales are value-added products like meats, eggs, preserved fruits and vegetables, and dairy products, such as cheese and butter.
Direct farm sales are critical to farm sustainability, because by eliminating many of the steps along the wholesale supply chain, farmers are able to sell their products at a price which allows them to cover their costs of producing the food. In turn, these sales boost the local economy, create jobs and economic opportunity, and preserve farmland and natural resources.
Massachusetts has long been a pioneer in direct to consumer sales. The first CSA was established in Great Barrington in 1986, The number of farmers markets has grown dramatically in the last decade, supported by the work of the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets. South Deerfield-based Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) launched one of the first buy local education campaigns in 1994, and many other regional organizations have followed suit. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resource’s “Massachusetts grown…and fresher” initiative was one of the first statewide branding efforts in the nation.
The first goal of the 2015 Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan is “Increase production, sales and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods,” and dozens of organizations around the Commonwealth are working toward that goal. The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative works to promote, monitor, and facilitate implementation of the Plan.
The 2015 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey was designed to collect data related to the marketing of foods directly from farm producers to consumers, institutions, retailers who then sell directly to consumers, and intermediate markets who sell locally or regionally branded products. The primary purpose of the Local Food Marketing Practices Survey was to produce benchmark statistics on the number of operations that sell using direct marketing channels, the value of these foods sales, and marketing practices.
December 02, 2016
On November 21, the Massachusetts Food Policy Council sent this letter to Governor Baker and legislative leaders, outlining the Council's priorities based on the 2015 Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan. These are issues that the Council hopes to amplify and address, through collaboration, research, and education.
November 21, 2016
Governor Charles Baker
Massachusetts State House, Room 280
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Governor Baker,
On behalf of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, I am pleased to submit the priorities from the Council's ongoing work related to the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan (http://mafoodsystem.orglplan/). At my request, Council members have continued to review and discuss the Plan during meetings since July and have further prioritized goals from the longer list submitted at that time. Our hope is that the Administration can amplify these broad goals and supporting programs, and link to larger policies. In many cases, agency members of the Council are already undertaking programs and projects that support the core goals of the Plan, and in some situations the Plan has provided guidance about where additional resources or efforts are needed.
In order to better work toward the goals of the plan with representatives of all of the key agencies engaged in the food system, the Council further recommends legislative action to add a seat to the Council for the Department of Fish and Game.
The Council appreciates the Administration's leadership and commitment to the Plan's vision of a sustainable and equitable food system. Please accept this letter as the Council's annual report, pursuant to MGL Chapter 20, Section 6(e).
We ask that you give consideration to these priorities as relevant legislative and regulatory actions are developed. As always, members of the Council would be happy to meet with you or your staffs to offer further detail to these priorities, as well as review any parts of the Plan or our work to implement it.
John Lebeaux, Commissioner and Chair, MA Food Policy Council