"Every bite each of us takes has been shaped by a complex range of forces, some in our control and others well outside of our control. By endeavoring to understand those forces better, and to play a more active role in influencing them, Massachusetts residents are working toward a food system that better meets the needs of everyone in the state."
The Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) Resilient Land Initiative (RLI) is an effort to solicit input from Massachusetts nonprofit organizations, municipalities, state agencies, landowners, and residents to draft and implement a new Statewide Land Conservation Initiative.
The food system and climate change are deeply entwined issues. From farming and fishing, to processing and distribution, to food waste and public health, every part of the food chain relies upon and impacts natural resources that, in turn, are related to climate change. The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan highlights these connections, and calls for the state to consider the local food system when developing laws and regulations related to climate change. Support for local food can help mitigate negative impacts on the environment, and carefully crafted climate change policy can help protect the local food economy, and public health as well.
The Collaborative has been working with Mill City Grows and the Springfield Food Policy Council to facilitate the MA Urban Ag Coalition. During regular Zoom calls, urban ag organizations from around the Commonwealth are discussing how they are changing their operations to respond to safety concerns and the increased need for healthy food in their communities, sharing resources, and identifying other opportunities for collective work and resource sharing. Calls thus far have focused on community garden and school garden changes, employing youth during the summer, and funding challenges and opportunities.
Since the 1940’s farmland in MA has been steadily converted to other uses. From 1940 to 2017, 1,446,300 acres, 74.6% of our farmland has been lost to development, resulting in a patchwork of noncontiguous farmland and parcels of farmland and former farmland that are fewer than five acres in size.
As we work to respond to and recover from the public health crisis, the Collaborative is launching a process to help develop recommendations for the local food system and shape our priorities for the future.
As the COVID 19 pandemic expanded, local boards of health and other municipal bodies, along with market managers, vendors, and shoppers, understandably became concerned about how to operate farmers markets safely. Most winter markets were cancelled and some summer market openings were put on hold.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the actions taken to protect public health highlights the fragility and interconnectedness of many complex systems. The food system is no exception. Disrupted logistics, including all inputs and outputs, labor, distribution, and all associated activity is the principal cause of the current challenges faced by the food system, as highlighted by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
New solar siting regulations support the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan’s recommendations to protect farmland from conversion to solar use, but threaten to reduce sustainability for farms by limiting the amount of land that farmers may use to generate revenue from solar projects.
In response to the spread of COVID-19 and the measures being taken to address it, the Collaborative has compiled this list of readings and resources to keep the MA food system community informed and aware of relevant actions and activities.