Massachusetts Food System Collaborative
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative

November 3, 2021

Register for the 2021 Food System Forum

See recordings from the Forum here!

The MA Food System Forum will be held online December 3-9, 2021. We look forward to gathering virtually to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the food system in Massachusetts, and strategize about how to best address them together. Sessions will include panelist presentations and discussions. Please register for each session you would like to attend via the provided links. Please see below for more information about each panel. Some moderators and panelists are still being confirmed.

Agenda and Registration Links

Friday, December 3             
10:30 – 12:00: Keynote: Stop monocropping food system solutions: If you wouldn’t grow that way, why work that way?

Monday, December 6              
10:30 – 12:00: The power of locally controlled food supply chains
1:00 – 2:30: Lessons from municipal food system policy campaigns     

Tuesday, December 7                         
10:30 – 12:00: Farming in the face of climate change
1:00 – 2:30: Strengthening community-led food system work

Wednesday, December 8             
10:00 – 12:00: MA Food System policy advocacy: Current campaigns and advocacy skill-building
1:00 – 2:30: Balancing emergency response and systemic solutions to food insecurity

Thursday, December 9             
10:30 – 12:00: Being an Ally: Collaborating with and Empowering BIPOC Partners
1:00 – 2:30: Expanding food system education in K-12 schools

Panel Descriptions and Panelists

Keynote: Stop monocropping food system solutions: If you wouldn’t grow that way, why work that way?
Friday, December 3, 10:30 – 12:00  
Jessica O’Neill, Executive Director, Just Roots

Our food and farm system is dynamic and diverse, interconnected and interdependent, but the way we approach the work within the food system is too often siloed, limiting innovation and stifling impact. Since the green revolution began, the risk of large scale monocrops have become ever clearer. We sacrifice a short term gain (vast amounts of food) for a long term loss (practices that weaken our health and the environment). We have been monocropping our solutions to food insecurity and health too, with similar outcomes – an overreliance on food banks and emergency surgeries, rather than a diversified diet, an economy linked to local farms, and a healthcare system that recognizes food as medicine. Holistically approaching food systems work helps foster a broadened knowledge base, opens doors to strategic alliances, invites diversity, and decreases dependence on any single solution to feeding a growing population that is becoming more food insecure and sick by the day. Just as we can’t feed the country on corn and soy alone, we can’t meet the challenges of our food system with singular, siloed solutions. Explore approaches to food systems work through a holistic lens, examining the challenges of and opportunities for cooperation across unique but aligned sectors. Discover the potential for transformative systems change within our food system when we shift to working the way we grow – diverse, informed, integrated, planned and measured.

Jessica O’Neill is the Executive Director of Just Roots, a food justice non profit organization in Greenfield, MA, located in Franklin County. Jessica helped establish the organization which is best known for reinventing the Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) model to be equity centered and accessible to an economically diverse membership, operating the largest SNAP enrolled CSA of its kind in MA.

The power of locally controlled food supply chains
Monday, December 6, 10:30 – 12:00
           Moderator: Jen Faigel, Executive Director, CommonWealth Kitchen
             Dylan Frazier, Director of Strategy, Boston Area Gleaners
             Angel Mendez, Interim Director, Red Tomato
             Mike Webster, Director of Dining Services, Tory Hill Dining LLC

Join this session to hear from supply chain businesses, and nonprofit organizations, and researchers to better understand how food system supply chains operate and where there is room for greater intervention to build a more sustainable, equitable food system. 

Lessons from municipal food system policy campaigns
Monday, December 6, 1:00 – 2:30
           Moderator: Becca Miller, Program Manager, MA Food System Collaborative
             Gina Plata-Nino, Staff Attorney, Central West Justice Center
             Kerry Murphy, Health and Wellness Coordinator, City of Salem
             Chelsea Gazillo/Cynthia Espinosa, Co-Directors, Holyoke Food and Equity Collective

Municipalities have real power to impact how the food system operates in the town/city through zoning, licensing, program operation, and more! 2021 has brought a new crop of city councils, town meeting members, town managers, and mayors. Learn how to effectively build a coalition and engage municipal leaders to create policy change at the municipal level. 

Farming in the face of climate change
Tuesday, December 7, 10:30 – 12:00
           Moderator: Jeff Cole, Agricultural Network Coordinator, MA Food System Collaborative
             Tom Akin, State Resource Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
             David Hollinger, Director, USDA Northeast Climate Hub
             Elizabeth Marks, Biologist, USDA Northeast Climate Hub
             Erin Lane, Coordinator, USDA Northeast Climate Hub
             Chris Grant, Secretary/Treasurer, New England Vegetable & Berry Growers
             Caro Roszell, Soil Health Specialist, American Farmland Trust

Panelists will outline key climate change impacts on local agriculture and existing strategies, programs, and policies that help local farmers deal with them. Participants will discuss strategies, programs and policies that might be needed to ensure farmers can continue to farm in the future. 

Strengthening community-led food system work
Tuesday, December 7, 1:00 – 2:30
           Moderator: Becca Miller, Program Manager, MA Food System Collaborative
             Caitlin Marquis and Kia Aoki, Healthy Hampshire
             Casey Burns, Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester
             Sarah Primeau and Ric Henry, Equitable Boston Food Ecosystem

Join this panel to learn from organizational staff and community leaders on their work to deepen local solutions to food system problems. Panelists will discuss how they’ve started or changed their model to work more closely with community partners, as well as how to best implement this approach in your own work.

MA Food System policy advocacy: Current campaigns and advocacy skill-building 
Wednesday, December 8, 10:00 – 12:00
           Moderator: Winton Pitcoff, Director, MA Food System Collaborative  
             Senator Jo Comerford, Co-Chair, Food System Caucus
             Lisa Damon, Co-Director, Mass Farm to School
             Laura Sylvester, Public Policy Manager, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
             Pat Baker, MA Law Reform Institute
             Kristin Sukys, Policy Analyst, Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School
             Leran Minc, Assistant Director, Public Policy, Project Bread
             Barbara L’Italien, Senior Government Affairs Adviser, Partners in Health

Hear from advocates leading policy campaigns advocating for funding and policy to support Massachusetts’ local food system, and learn the basics of policy advocacy so you can get involved!

Balancing emergency response and systemic solutions to food insecurity
Wednesday, December 8, 1:00 – 2:30
           Moderator: Winton Pitcoff, Director, MA Food System Collaborative
             Jean McMurray, Executive Director, Worcester County Food Bank
             Cynthia Espinosa, Senior Project Manager, Planning and Economic Development, City of Holyoke
             Jessica del Rosario, Director of Community Initiatives at Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Most of the work being done to alleviate hunger comes in the form of emergency food provision, but more organizations and advocates are emphasizing the need to stop hunger from occurring in the first place. These efforts to develop systemic solutions to food access integrate issues of systemic racism, wages, access to public benefits, and local supply chains. This discussion will highlight examples of this work in MA, and where additional support is needed.

Being an Ally: Collaborating with and Empowering BIPOC Partners
Thursday, December 9, 10:30 – 12:00
           Moderator: Norris Guscott, Equity Policy Network Manager, MA Food System Collaborative
              Anne Hayes, Executive Director, The Food Project
              Traci Talbert, Racial Justice and Community Engagement Leader, Franklin County CDC
              Nicole McClain, Founder, North Shore Juneteenth
              M. Scott Knox, Executive Director, RootSalem

In well-intentioned efforts to provide assistance, ally organizations face issues around partnerships, stake-building, and communication with BIPOC communities, farmers, and the organizations that support and represent them. In this session, we will learn from impactful allies and BIPOC leaders about their strategies for engaging, learning from, and collaborating with BIPOC farmers, organizations, and communities.

Expanding food system education in K-12 schools
Thursday, December 9, 1:00 – 2:30
           Moderator: Brittany Peats, Program Manager, MA Food System Collaborative  
             Laura Stamas, High School Science Teacher at Four Rivers Charter School, Greenfield
             Brittany Borchert, Foods and Nutrition Teacher, Norwell Middle School
             Hailey Small, Garden Educator, Backyard Growers

The Collaborative is currently facilitating a campaign to expand food system education in K-12 schools in MA. These three panelists will demonstrate how food can be integrated into science, wellness, and social studies classes through hands-on lessons that prepare students to be healthy, engaged community members with an understanding of nutrition, agriculture, food justice, and culinary skills. Educators will talk about what has helped them to implement these programs as well as what else is needed to make sure all students have access to this type of information. And we’ll talk about how advocates can support this work. 


Registration for all Forum events is free, thanks to our sponsors:


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Massachusetts Food System Collaborative