With the completion of the Massachusetts food system planning process comes the need to determine how goals and recommendations will be carried out. The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan (the Plan) presents a range of goals and recommendations, from narrow, specific items to broad visions. Some are particularly time-sensitive and require immediate attention, while others are more transformational in nature and scope and will take time to achieve. It will be necessary to prioritize these goals and actions to facilitate implementation. Doing so will require action on the part of many public, nonprofit, and private participants in the food system.
A collaborative effort is required to carry out of the recommendations contained in the Plan. Existing structures need to be strengthened and some new systems created in order to move the proposed agenda forward. The MFPC is limited by its enabling legislation to providing recommendations and currently has very limited resources for staffing. The legislature has no formal structure to review proposed legislation specifically in the context of the broader food system. While government structures offer significant advantages to moving an agenda forward, the challenges of open meeting and public procurement laws and centralized control also create significant hurdles to effective policy implementation. And though there is a demonstrated need for a network that shepherds the Plan’s agenda and provides neutral facilitated communication and networking among stakeholder organizations, private entities, and other key players in Massachusetts’ food system, no such entity currently exists.
Only through collaboration between these three key actors in the food system – the nonprofit and private sector along with local governments, the MFPC, and the legislature – can progress be made toward the goals of this plan. Public and private investment in capacity building for these three entities will be required for broad cross-sector coordination, planning, and implementation related to the Plan. It will be critical that these three entities communicate regularly, and collaborate where appropriate, to ensure that their work toward implementing the Plan’s goals is complementary, and to provide a level of accountability among each other. As the MFPC, legislature, and stakeholder network grow in capacity over the coming years, consideration should be given to a structure that formally connects them.