The value in municipal-level work to support the food system is significant. Local officials can effectively lobby the state for policy changes, or can change existing local laws, regulations, programs, and investments to make the local food system more sustainable and equitable in the municipality. Boston’s Article 89, passed in 2013, is widely cited as an important step toward reducing barriers for commercial scale urban agriculture, and allowed urban farming in residential areas. Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number and variety of urban agriculture policies enacted, which has been addressed in a wide variety of ways.
While the state limits the authority of municipalities to take action on certain issues, such as zoning, municipalities have significant power over their local food system – property taxes, public water and sewer systems, public school systems, local public health measures, public works and public safety all fall under a municipality’s jurisdiction to regulate. These systems all influence the food system – how much local and healthy food is accessible to residents, how financially viable farms are, and more. Continued gaps in food access, challenges to farm sustainability, and disruptions to the supply chain point to the need to address systemic issues. Community food assessments and food plans can help to do so, and collaboration between private sector stakeholders and local officials and agencies can leverage public resources and create long-term buy-in for meaningful change.
The Collaborative’s projects related to municipal food policy include:
Collaborative publications and resources from other organizations