“Connections in our food system are essential. For fruits and vegetables, it is the connection between seeds and Massachusetts’ fertile soils. Our fish and shellfish rely on clean seawater and a healthy marine environment. Meat and dairy products depend upon livestock’s access to land. And all of these foods owe their growth to the careful, expert stewardship of our state’s farmers, fishermen, and other food-system workers who, in turn, owe their expertise in part to access to resources and education, and to a system that understands their work and supports it. So, too, do successful plans and initiatives require connections between people and ideas, between history and current realities, and between policy and practice.”
– 2015 Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan
The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative, formed in 2015 in response to the Plan’s recommendation that a “body of engaged stakeholders” be established to promote, monitor, and facilitate implementation of the Plan, seeks to strengthen and support those connections.
In our first two years of operation the Collaborative has worked to promote the Plan as a resource for public agencies, private organizations, funders, and practitioners. We have built relationships with and among key players in the food system, making connections where we found opportunities to share resources and take collective action. And we have provided facilitation and coordination among stakeholder groups, leading several efforts to work toward Plan recommendations that demonstrate how cross-sector connections yield the most effective and sustainable solutions to challenges in the food system.
What we have found, and highlighted in this report, is a network of incredibly dedicated, creative, innovative, and wise people who are eager to collaborate to shape an equitable and sustainable food system. Where the Plan offers a blueprint, a menu of options to choose from for those involved, the Collaborative offers connective tissue to link these efforts where appropriate, so that organizations and programs can share others’ strengths, collectively develop solutions, and act to make them a reality.
The Collaborative is particularly interested in the connection between policy and practice. To be effective, programs and practices need policies that support their work, and policy needs to be informed by the experiences of practitioners who do the real work of the food system. The Collaborative remains committed to working with a broad network of food-system stakeholders to translate the needs of those who produce, process, sell, or eat food into effective policy that supports an equitable and sustainable food system.