The food processing industry, which includes manufacturing of food and beverages, represents about 3.6 percent of all businesses and seven percent of all jobs in the Massachusetts food system.1 Food manufacturing businesses and jobs have grown steadily as a percentage of the State food system. The majority of jobs in the food processing sector are held by frontline workers, who are low-wage, receive limited benefits, and are exposed to health and safety issues in the work environment. There are only limited opportunities for employees to rise to supervisory and management roles. Unionization in food processing affords employees somewhat higher wages, full-time employment, and better working conditions than in other sectors of the food system.2
Efforts by Massachusetts non-profits, vocational schools, and higher education to foster culinary workforce training and entrepreneurship help more people access opportunities at higher-wage, skilled positions in the food processing sector. For example, North Shore Community College offers an Agriculture and Food Service program for students interested in a range of food related professional fields. Haley House in Roxbury engages men who have transitioned out of the prison system in café management and culinary training in their urban café. Community Servings in Jamaica Plain trains individuals interested in food service careers. Both Haley House and Community Servings work with individuals who are underemployed or face barriers to employment. An increasing number of shared-use rental commercial kitchens are also supporting entrepreneurship in food processing. These efforts and a range of additional strategies, including supporting on-the-job training, and identifying promising growth subsectors, like micro-brewing and distilling, will help the Massachusetts local food processing sector to grow jobs and businesses that support workers and entrepreneurs.