Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report

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Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report

In 2015 the Massachusetts Food Policy Council accepted the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, a set of recommendations and guiding principles toward a sustainable and equitable food system for the Commonwealth. The Plan’s goals were broad, aspirational, and the result of a consensus process among stakeholders, policymakers, advocates, and practitioners:

  • Increase production, sales, and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods;
  • Create jobs and economic opportunity in food and farming, and improve the wages and skills of food system workers;
  • Protect the land and water needed to produce food, maximize environmental benefits from agriculture and fishing, and ensure food safety; and
  • Reduce hunger and food insecurity, increase the availability of healthy food to all residents, and reduce food waste.

The Plan is broad, offering recommendations on issues from farmland preservation to local food marketing to food waste, and everything in between. It is also detailed, with more than 600 specific action items, developed by the more than 1,500 people who participated in the two-year planning process. It was clear from the outset that a dispersed model of implementation would be required, with a wide range of stakeholder organizations, agencies, and institutions each playing a role in addressing recommendations that most align with their respective missions.

Just two years since the Plan’s completion, dozens of efforts around Massachusetts have risen to that challenge. From state agencies to volunteer community-based organizations, each is playing a unique role in changing how food is produced, distributed, processed, marketed, consumed and disposed of. Many of these efforts are collaborative; many represent efforts to engage multiple different food system sectors. Collectively, these efforts are helping to build the public’s understanding of the food system; addressing issues of fair access to jobs, land, and food; and working to ensure that each process that makes up the food chain stewards resources carefully and supports businesses, communities, and families.

This report tells just some of the stories of programs, projects, and people working toward the goals of the Plan. Each story is followed by one of the recommendations being addressed by that effort.

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Land for Good: Succession planning to keep farms in farming

Cambridge Food and Fitness Policy Council: Supporting urban agriculture 

City Soil & Greenhouse LLC: Making compost in Boston 

Island Grown Initiative: Turning food waste into compost 

Massachusetts Food System Collaborative: Diverting food waste through policy change 

Center for EcoTechnology: Helping farms reduce energy costs 

Justamere Tree Farm: Upgrading infrastructure for energy-efficient processing 

Phoenix Fruit Farm: Enhancing natural resources through farming 

Smith’s Country Cheese: Sustainability through solar and compost 

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance: Elevating underutilized fish to a healthy staple 

The Livestock Institute of Southern New England: Infrastructure to meet the growing demand for local meat 

CommonWealth Kitchen: Helping small food businesses succeed

Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center: Cold storage to extend local food availability 

World Farmers: Helping new Americans become food entrepreneurs 

Common Capital: Funding for food businesses

Massachusetts Food System Collaborative: Collaborating for public health and farm sustainability 

University of Massachusetts: Helping food businesses comply with food safety regulations 

Squash, Inc.: Linking local foods with wholesale buyers 

Lettuce Be Local: Bringing local food to chefs 

Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership: Connecting farms and consumers 

Massachusetts Cheese Guild: Increasing markets for artisanal cheesemakers 

Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust: A comprehensive approach to farm sustainability 

Westfield State University: Local food in an institutional setting 

Partners HealthCare: Food is medicine in this hospital chain 

Franklin County Food Council: A community-based effort to increase institutional purchasing 

Massachusetts Public Health Association: Addressing the need for more stores selling healthy food 

Greater Boston Food Bank: Coalition-building for breakfast access for kids 

Community Servings: Improving health outcomes through healthy eating 

Gardening the Community / Springfield Food Policy Council: Education and advocacy to improve a city’s food system 

Worcester Food Policy Council: Better food access starts with better wages 

The Food Project: Community visioning for a just food system 

Massachusetts Food System Collaborative: Supporting healthy families and sustainable farms 

Mill City Grows: Mobile markets bring fresh local food to city neighborhoods 

Arrowhead Farm: Farm sustainability through improved food access 

The Farm School: Educating the next generation of farmers 

The Carrot Project: Providing business technical assistance for sustainability 

Working Cities Worcester: Preparing workers for jobs in the food system 

Urban Farming Institute: Workforce training through urban farming

Greenfield Community College / Franklin County House of Correction: Growing skills for job readiness

Regional Environmental Council: Developing food system leaders 

Future Chefs: Educating chefs to be engaged food system participants