Massachusetts Food System Collaborative
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative

Distribution: Goal 1

The distribution system will support opportunities for equitable access to fresh local food.

Local food has important implications for nutrition and health, as discussed in the FASH section of Goals. Fruits and vegetables picked and eaten or preserved at their peak have the greatest nutritional value.[1] But residents of many urban and rural communities don’t have easy access to fresh or culturally-relevant produce because of a lack of nearby retail food stores, or a lack of public transportation to get to stores.

The Massachusetts Food Trust was established by the legislature in 2014 to provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to support new and expanded healthy food retailers and local food enterprises in low- and moderate-income communities. This could include supermarkets, corner stores, cooperative food enterprises, farmers markets, mobile markets, community kitchens, food truck commissaries, indoor and outdoor greenhouses, and food distribution hubs. To date, the Trust has not received funding.

Building alliances among health advocates, agencies, insurers, and regulators will increase access to fresh produce. Increased retail accessibility can be accomplished through public support of farmers markets, which provide direct distribution mechanisms for healthy, local food, particularly in areas poorly served by traditional food retailers.

Recommendation 1.1: Support public and private investment to capitalize and implement the Massachusetts Food Trust.

Action 1.1.1: Encourage and support $10 million in public financing for the Massachusetts Food Trust, which would allow additional private funds to be raised.

Action 1.1.2: Identify additional dedicated public and private sources of funds to support the Massachusetts Food Trust.

Action 1.1.3: Provide loans, grants, and technical assistance through the Massachusetts Food Trust to support new and expanded healthy food retailers and local food enterprises in low- and moderate-income communities that will create jobs.

Recommendation 1.2: Support growth of traditional retail food establishments in communities with unmet needs.

Action 1.2.1: Fund and publish retail analysis, using community engagment research practices, that demonstrates unmet demands for healthy and local food, and highlight areas of opportunity and market potential for grocers and developers.

Recommendation 1.3: Harness public demand for and commitment to local food and culturally appropriate and preferred crops to drive increased availability.

Action 1.3.1: Provide public support to farmers markets to market local foods and expand the number of Massachusetts residents consuming local food.

Action 1.3.2: Increase State funding for buy local organizations to at least $500,000 annually.

Action 1.3.3: Support and expand the UMass Ethnic Crops Program Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture.

Action 1.3.4: Conduct a study of cultural produce preferences and needs. Disseminate results to farmers to inform crop selection based on market demand.

Recommendation 1.4: Define and expand the role that health advocates, health care agencies, insurers, and regulators play in increasing the demand for and consumption of healthy, local food in all communities.

Action 1.4.1: Continue to educate health care providers, regulators, and medical schools about the ways they can increase the public’s consumption of healthy, local food.

Action 1.4.2: Develop an inventory of effective local food incentive programs and best practices to share with health practitioners and insurers.

Action 1.4.3: Replicate and disseminate best practices by health care providers that increase the consumption of healthy Massachusetts-produced foods.

Action 1.4.4: Continue to support health care providers and regulators to incentivize purchases of healthy, Massachusetts-produced foods, through programs such as vegetable prescriptions and other healthy food incentive programs.

[1] Barrett, Diane M. (2007). Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits & Vegetables.Food Technology 61(4):40-44.

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Massachusetts Food System Collaborative