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.
- Support programs that facilitate access to healthy foods for underserved communities. A current focus is to provide support to leverage the Department of Transitional Assistance's USDA/FINI grant award, known as the Healthy Incentives Program, which will increase use of SNAP at farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and for community supported agriculture (CSA )programs, providing fresh, healthy food for low-income families, and increasing sales for Massachusetts farmers. Additional examples include the MA Food Trust and the MA Food Ventures Program.
- Reduce food waste through state programs for farmers, restaurants, processors, schools and other institutions, and consumers. A current focus is to support the Commercial Food Waste Ban by developing policies and programs to divert food waste from landfills. Support for donation programs, conversion of food waste to animal feed, composting, and the development of anaerobic digestion facilities are also priorities.
- Support regulatory policies and practices that allow farms and other food system businesses to thrive. The current focus is to develop circuit rider positions at state regulatory agencies, subject to appropriation, to provide food business guidance in a non-enforcement capacity in an effort to aid in compliance.Additionally, circuit riders will provide support and guidance to local regulatory agencies.
- Support and grow local food system infrastructure. The current focus is to target opportunities for growers, food processors and distributors to access capital, incentives, and technical assistance though agency partners and programs, private organizations, and universities.
- Support increased purchases of Massachusetts grown and produced foods. The current focus is to support increased purchases of local foods by state institutions, public and private educational programs, and meals programs. Increased funding for state agency and institutional food procurement and standardized contract language for state and municipal purchasers, are also priorities.
- Support expanded educational opportunities for farmers and other food system workers. The current focus is to support Massachusetts higher education, UMass Extension,and vocational technical schools by developing and offering appropriate curricula to meet food system needs.
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