With the completion of the Massachusetts food system planning process comes the need to determine how goals and recommendations will be carried out. The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan (the Plan) presents a range of goals and recommendations, from narrow, specific items to broad visions. Some are particularly time-sensitive and require immediate attention, while others are more transformational in nature and scope and will take time to achieve. It will be necessary to prioritize these goals and actions to facilitate implementation. Doing so will require action on the part of many public, nonprofit, and private participants in the food system.
A collaborative effort is required to carry out of the recommendations contained in the Plan. Existing structures need to be strengthened and some new systems created in order to move the proposed agenda forward. The MFPC is limited by its enabling legislation to providing recommendations and currently has very limited resources for staffing. The legislature has no formal structure to review proposed legislation specifically in the context of the broader food system. While government structures offer significant advantages to moving an agenda forward, the challenges of open meeting and public procurement laws and centralized control also create significant hurdles to effective policy implementation. And though there is a demonstrated need for a network that shepherds the Plan’s agenda and provides neutral facilitated communication and networking among stakeholder organizations, private entities, and other key players in Massachusetts’ food system, no such entity currently exists.
Only through collaboration between these three key actors in the food system – the nonprofit and private sector along with local governments, the MFPC, and the legislature – can progress be made toward the goals of this plan. Public and private investment in capacity building for these three entities will be required for broad cross-sector coordination, planning, and implementation related to the Plan. It will be critical that these three entities communicate regularly, and collaborate where appropriate, to ensure that their work toward implementing the Plan’s goals is complementary, and to provide a level of accountability among each other. As the MFPC, legislature, and stakeholder network grow in capacity over the coming years, consideration should be given to a structure that formally connects them.
Recommendation 1.1: Partners in implementation of the Plan should commit to principles of operation and action related to diversity and inclusiveness.
Action 1.1.1: Decision-making bodies should be intentionally diverse and inclusionary of the people that were a part of the planning process, particularly people most affected by food system inequities: organizations and individuals who represent farmers, food chain workers, and food insecure communities.
Action 1.1.2: Efforts should be made to engage people who are marginalized by hunger, food insecurity, racism, and other inequities.
Recommendation 1.2: Task a body of engaged stakeholders to promote and facilitate implementation of the Plan. This body should be collaborative, grounded in, and build from the diverse group of stakeholders who have led and lent their expertise to the development of the Plan through the Executive Committee, Planning Team, and Project Advisors. Envisioned participants in this collaborative include: statewide farm, fishing, food, land conservation, environmental, anti-hunger and public health organizations; regional entities such as “buy local” organizations, food banks, land trusts, regional planning agencies, economic development agencies, Workforce Investment Boards, and workforce education and training organizations; municipal entities, including local food policy councils, agriculture commissions, healthy lifestyle organizations, and food pantries; food businesses and cooperatives; and others who have participated in the development of the Plan.
The stakeholder collaborative should be a dynamic body whose structure and form would intentionally evolve over time. At the outset, the entity should be steered by the Plan’s current Executive Committee, with direction from the Plan’s current Project Advisors. In Year One (2016), the collaborative should focus on building policymaker and public support for the Plan’s goals and recommendations, making progress on specific Plan recommendations, and growing the statewide network of engaged and connected food system stakeholders. In Year Two (2017), the collaborative should continue to focus on Plan implementation, while addressing the issue of future form and function of the collaborative to maximize its collective impact.
Specific actions that the collaborative entity will begin in 2016 include:
Action 1.2.1: Find a fiscal agent for the collaborative. The agent should remain neutral in the functioning of the entity, and should not constrain or limit the identity or perception of the entity.
Action 1.2.2: Seek pro bono legal assistance for formally establishing the collaborative as a legal entity as necessary.
Action 1.2.3: Hire a project manager to provide overall coordination for the collaborative. The project manager would be responsible for day-to-day administration of the collaborative, including developing the yearly implementation action plan, managing budgets, contracting with and overseeing consultants.
Action 1.2.4: Establish the initial structure for the collaborative.
Action 184.108.40.206: The current Executive Committee for the Plan should serve as the collaborative’s steering Committee. If any Executive Committee member chooses not to serve on the Steering Committee, the Executive Committee would choose a replacement who is experienced in the same sector as the exiting member. At least one member of the Planning Team should serve on the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee members will oversee the project manager, solicit input from the Advisory Team in designing the collaborative’s agenda and action steps, make decisions on adding agenda items that arise but are not in the Plan, and identify funding sources for the collaborative and specific implementation projects.
Action 220.127.116.11: The current Project Advisors to the Plan will serve as the collaborative’s Advisory Team. The Advisory Team will help design and compose the collaborative’s annual implementation action plan, and may lead or participate in standing or ad hoc work groups to address specific Plan recommendations. Advisory Team members will also provide outreach around the Plan to other stakeholders in their sector, and, in Year Two (2017), work with the Steering Committee to determine the future form and function of the collaborative.
Action 1.2.5: Secure funds for the collaboration’s operation and for any projects identified in the yearly implementation action plan.
Action 1.2.6: Contract with consultants for facilitation and engagement needs, as appropriate.
Outreach and Visibility
Action 1.2.7: Build public and political support for the Plan’s goals and recommendations.
Action 18.104.22.168: Direct stakeholder and policymaker outreach.
Action 22.214.171.124: Conduct briefings and workshops around aspects of the Plan’s goals and recommendations.
Action 126.96.36.199: Develop and execute a media strategy around the Plan.
Action 1.2.8: Identify agency and legislative champions for specific Plan recommendations.
Action 1.2.9: Develop strategic communications tools to keep Plan participants informed and engaged in implementation activities, and to broaden the network of engaged public and private sector participants.
Action 1.2.10: Identify recommendations where the collaborative’s efforts should be targeted, either because of the cross-sectoral nature of the recommendation or the lack of an existing advocate or structure to promote or address the recommendation.
Action 1.2.11: Recommend specific implementation strategies to the MFPC, and working with the Council to pursue specific recommendations;
Action 1.2.12: Develop an annual implementation action plan for the collaborative, with benchmarks towards progress on specific goals and recommendations;
Action 1.2.13: Facilitate working groups on issues or topic areas identified in the plan, with a focus on multi-sectoral projects and those that don’t have existing organizations championing those items. These working groups may develop campaigns around legislative issues, work toward changes in regulations, or facilitate ongoing communication and networking among practitioners within a sector. They may be short-term engagements on particular topics around which the Plan has recommended collaboration, one-time gatherings called to address a particular issue or challenge, or ongoing opportunities for networking and resource sharing. Where appropriate, groups may be established across sectors to encourage systemic change, or may be focused on developing communities of practice within a particular sector, to help strengthen organizations’ capacities around particular skills.
Action 1.2.14: Take the lead or identify entities to take on projects proposed by the Plan, such as developing user-friendly guides to regulations, adapting portions of the Plan as advocacy tools, or system mapping.
Action 1.2.15: Coordinate efforts to track metrics as recommended by the Plan to assess progress toward goals. This will include continued engagement with other New England states to unify shared data and metrics.
Action 1.2.16: Identify the appropriate partners to develop and disseminate additional needed research and data analysis.
Action 1.2.17: Develop relationships with businesses, organizations, and municipal stakeholders not yet engaged in the process to identify and pursue opportunities for collaboration.
Action 1.2.18: Seek opportunities to integrate the implementation efforts of this plan with existing activities by municipal governments and food policy councils, regional planning agencies, and economic development organizations.
Action 1.2.19: Represent the Plan where appropriate in planning and implementation efforts in other disciplines, such as municipal and regional planning, transportation, energy, labor and workforce, and others.
Action 1.2.20: Represent the State in New England multi-state planning initiatives, as appropriate.
Action 1.2.21: Secure resources to provide needs-based funding or stipends to organizations or entities interested in implementation.
Recommendation 1.3: Revitalize the MFPC as an engaged force toward coordinated regulations and supports for the food system, and a catalyst for changes recommended in the Plan.
Action 1.3.1: Members of the MFPC should support enacting legislation that broadens the scope of the MFPC beyond developing recommendations – currently its sole responsibility – to include actively coordinating food policy decisions and food system supports among agencies.
Action 1.3.2: The FPC should consider amending the enabling legislation to promote structural and operational changes that could improve engagement and efficacy, including:
Action 188.8.131.52: Create additional seats on the MFPC to ensure representation of a broad range of public and private food system stakeholders. Consideration should be given to representatives of:
Action 184.108.40.206: Consideration should be given to the role and necessity of the MFPC Advisory Committee.
Action 220.127.116.11: Establish subcommittees or working groups as needed with a specific focus and limited timeframe.
Action 18.104.22.168: Establish co-chairs, to encourage broader engagement from all participating agencies.
Action 22.214.171.124: Hold more frequent meetings, to better facilitate discussion and ensure progress on tasks.
Action 126.96.36.199: Attend annual meetings with commissioners of agencies represented on MFPC, to review progress, identify challenges, and celebrate successes from the previous year’s work.
Additional tasks the MFPC could take on include:
Action 188.8.131.52: Set priorities for actions the MFPC will take based on the Plan’s recommendations, focusing on items that emphasize inter – agency collaboration around regulations and practices.
Action 184.108.40.206: Develop plans for member agencies and organizations to commit to taking on plan-recommended tasks that are relevant to their agencies, and coordinating these efforts with the other implementation partners.
Action 220.127.116.11: Set goals and establishing benchmarks for those goals to allow for measuring and reporting on progress.
Action 18.104.22.168: Dedicate State funding to staffing a Food Policy Coordinator position to support the work of the MFPC , housed at one of the member agencies.
Action 22.214.171.124: Develop an inventory of all State programs that relate to food and identifying synergistic opportunities for the allocation of State resources to best meet the goals of the Plan. This inventory could lead to further recommendations about State agency budget and administrative priorities, and more efficient coordination among State agencies.
Action 126.96.36.199: Review and discuss pending regulatory changes, as well as ballot initiatives, that relate to the food system, assessing these actions in the context of the broad system and the goals of the Plan.
Recommendation 1.4: Establish a food system plan caucus in the legislature.
Action 1.4.1: Members of the legislature should consider establishing a food and farm caucus to develop and introduce legislation recommended by the Plan. The caucus should also be used as an opportunity to educate legislators about food system policy issues.
Participants in the caucus should include representatives from committees that consider legislation related to the food system including, but not limited to, committees on health care, agriculture, the environment, the State budget, and education.
Tasks may include:
Action 188.8.131.52: Review legislation, budgets, ballot initiatives and existing laws in the context of the broader food system, with an eye toward reforms that support the food system based on the goals of the Plan.
Action 184.108.40.206: Stay in regular contact with the MFPC in order to facilitate collaboration, where possible.
Action 220.127.116.11: Allocate funds to staffing the caucus.
Recommendation 1.5: Ensure that food system issues are integrated into all appropriate planning efforts.
Action 1.5.1: Support the creation of regional, municipal, and neighborhood food plans.
Action 1.5.2: Promote best practices and inclusionary processes in food planning. Stay abreast of food planning theory and practice through organizations like the American Planning Association and its Food Interest Group.
Action 1.5.3: Include food system planning in the Baker Administration’s Community Compact best practices.
Action 1.5.4: Include food accessibility in State Transportation Improvement Program evaluation criteria.
Action 1.5.5: Ensure that the Rural Policy Advisory Commission includes food policy issues in its discussions.
Action 1.5.6: Ensure that the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Economic Development Council includes food system concerns in its statewide economic development plan.
Action 1.5.7: Include food system consideration in all State, regional, and municipal level economic and workforce development planning.
Action 1.5.8: Include farmers and practitioners from all sectors of the food system in emergency preparedness planning.
Action 1.5.9: Allow the use of District Local Technical Assistance funds for local and sub-regional food system planning and implementation tasks.
Action 1.5.10: Take food system issues, including labor and workforce development, into consideration when developing Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy reports and regional economic growth plans.
Action 1.5.11: Develop resources or support existing entities to assist regions, municipalities, and neighborhoods in conducting food system plans. This could be in the form of food system planning toolkits and guidelines.
Action 1.5.12: Add guidance on food system planning for municipal planning documents, including master plans, open space and recreation plans, community needs assessments, hazard mitigation plans, and others.
Action 1.5.13: Coordinate with other states on interstate and regional food planning efforts.