The MA Food System Collaborative is working with Massachusetts Farm to School and other partners to develop and advocate for a set of policy changes that would increase schools’ ability to purchase more local food and incorporate more agricultural and nutrition education into their curricula.
When schools purchase foods from local producers, they introduce students to healthy, local foods and support local farmers, processors, and fishermen. Agricultural and nutrition education can be tied to school gardens and other STEM topics, and makes students aware of the food system and the importance of eating nutritious food. However, schools face many barriers to purchasing more local food and incorporating these topics into their curriculum.
The project is gathering input on potential state policy strategies through informational interviews and meetings, and will then draft strategies and gather additional feedback. By the Fall, we hope to develop a multi-year advocacy campaign to promote the chosen policy proposals, complete with outreach materials and trainings for advocates.
There are recommendations throughout the MA Local Food Action Plan related to school food, and the Collaborative sees this issue as an excellent example of how building connections between sectors can lead to a more equitable and sustainable food system. Mass Farm to School has been working to connect schools and farmers since 2004, and their leadership has made the state a national model for effective farm to school programs.