Massachusetts lacks sufficient food distribution infrastructure to support the increasing production of and demand for local foods. Sufficient partnerships between businesses, processors, institutions, and producers need to be built to create economies of scale for local producers. Doing so could facilitate cost-effective processing and distribution and provide stronger stimulus for local economic development and innovation.
Recommendation 3.1: Set up a State-funded economic development fund to support and spur innovation in local food aggregation, processing, and distribution.
Action 3.1.1: Convene public and private stakeholders, as well as educational institutions, to conduct a needs assessment and develop creative ways existing food distribution infrastructure can be used more efficiently to increase cost effectiveness.
Action 3.1.2: Gather and disseminate information and data on how businesses are innovating and the supports they need.
Action 3.1.3: Attract public and private investment for food distribution innovation through a new economic development fund. Coordinate operations of the proposed fund with the MassDevelopment’s efforts to increase distribution efficiencies and innovations.
Action 3.1.4: Support prototyping of new ideas and ventures with investment and grant opportunities, including development of agricultural cooperatives, regional aggregation centers (food hubs) by third party entities, cooperative distribution models, cooperative distribution from farmers markets, and approaches that use technology to reduce food distribution costs.
Action 3.1.5: Develop technology such as source-tracking systems like that used by Red’s Best, to provide increased market data and serve as an online clearinghouse and marketplace for listing, distributing, and selling locally-produced and -processed foods, to connecting producers, distributors, and buyers.
Action 3.1.6: Fund incentives for producers to act on market research related to new and emerging products and changing consumer demands.
Action 3.1.7: Provide financial support for food co-op startups.
Recommendation 3.2: Foster networks and relationships to support innovative food distribution models.
Action 3.2.1: Engage colleges and universities that focus on business and entrepreneurship to support the development of innovative distribution businesses.
Action 3.2.2: Increase connectivity between industry players, startup businesses, and supply chain producers of processing and distribution equipment to identify opportunities for strengthening the local innovation ecosystem and catalyze new partnerships and relationships.
Recommendation 3.3: Use food preservation processes, including freezing, dehydration, and canning, to increase sales of Massachusetts products in locations where local and lightly-processed products are priorities, such as public schools, or in convenience stores where storage space may be limited, as well as other retail and wholesale outlets.
Action 3.3.1: Finance, construct, and operate infrastructure for local storage including ambient, refrigerated, and frozen storage as well as freezing facilities to complement the processing of lightly-processed produce in shared-use kitchens, food hubs or other facilities.
Action 3.3.2: Develop farm to small wholesale and retail business models (including bodegas) to sell frozen, ambient-temperature, and refrigerated produce. Develop grant programs to support the models.