The PlanSector

Food Access, Security and Health

Goal 8

More people will be aware of the direct effects that nutrition has on their health and will take part in effective nutrition education programs.

Image courtesy of UMass Memorial Health Care

Many Massachusetts residents struggle to make the connection between what they eat and their health.1 Also, there is a predominant public perception that a healthy diet that includes local fruits, vegetables, and meats is too expensive for the average family to afford and is only available during the summer months.2

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Recommendations

  1. 8.1 Improve the availability and effectiveness of public education about the direct diet-health connection.
    1. Actions:
    2. 8.1.1 Identify ways to further utilize and leverage existing food-health awareness campaigns and initiatives that reinforce the food-health connection, including the USDA’s MyPlate.
    3. 8.1.2 Improve the format and distribution of the Massachusetts seasonal food calendars to increase understanding of locally harvested and caught foods available year-round.
    4. 8.1.3 Examine the feasibility, and launch a public outreach campaign about the health and economic benefits of purchasing and consuming local food.
    5. 8.1.4 Work in partnership with schools and childcare providers to send guides for parents on how to pack a healthy school lunch and snack. Provide support for guides and other materials that are sent out at the beginning of the school year.
  2. 8.2 Maintain and expand existing nutrition outreach programs.
    1. Actions:
    2. 8.2.1 Build upon existing SNAP education programs by expanding public and private support for outreach and programming of existing nutrition education programs operated by UMass Extension SNAP Education and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Programs (EFNEP) and nonprofit organizations, such as Share Our Strength, to also include people who may not be receiving or are not eligible for nutrition assistance.
    3. 8.2.2 Support and promote efforts by food retailers, medical service providers, school staff and volunteers, and other entities to offer “healthy diets on a budget” information and classes, especially at locations where complementary programming that engages adults, youth, and children are already planned.
    4. 8.2.3 Increase state, local, nonprofit, and private investments to expand the number of community kitchens including expanding the usage of existing kitchens for delivery of nutrition education and cooking courses for seniors, adults, and youth.
  3. 8.3 Build more food system career pathways to advance knowledge about the direct effects of nutrition and the benefits of local food.
    1. Actions:
    2. 8.3.1 Strengthen culinary certificate programs at community colleges. Educate school administrators about barriers to careers in the food system so these may be addressed in course offerings. Encourage and support partnerships between nonprofit organizations with culinary programs and community colleges to extend coursework and increase certificate opportunities.
    3. 8.3.2 Pilot collaborative employment models in partnership with employers where food preparation workers move between food service jobs and farm-based processing work and other kinds of collaborative employment arrangements.
  4. 8.4 Use tax policy to encourage purchases of healthy, locally produced food.
    1. Actions:
    2. 8.4.1 Eliminate the sales tax exemption for sugar-added soda beverages and direct the resulting tax revenue to nutrition programs that increase the access to, and consumption of, healthy foods, including locally produced foods.
    3. 8.4.2 Monitor the implementation of FDA labeling requirements for product and calorie information on restaurant menus and vending machines. Study implications for Massachusetts consumers, businesses, and food providers.