Growing and scaling the food system in Massachusetts will depend on the availability of infrastructure, facilities, and equipment tailored to the needs of food producers, from land to sea. Farmers and fishermen interested in adding value to the foods they harvest requires a range of food processing facilities, from dairy and cheese processing equipment, to certified kitchen spaces for food preservation, to seafood and slaughter facilities. Burgeoning entrepreneurship in specialty food processing, food trucks, and catering is encouraging the development of multi-use, shared-use kitchens. Food hubs orchestrate a combination of aggregation, storage, distribution, food processing, and retailing, and these are taking shape in the State in a number of forms. Increasing demand for locally grown and caught food by public schools, universities, and hospitals is spurring innovation in the seafood and farming sectors to meet the needs of larger institutions. To effectively and economically distribute locally produced foods, logistics and technology systems are needed in order to sell foods while maintaining its local origin identity.
While significant infrastructure already supports Massachusetts food production and processing industries, it will be important to support strategic development of new infrastructure or use of underutilized infrastructure, as efforts increase to grow the State’s food processing capacity.
Recommendation 4.1: Invest in food processing and distribution infrastructure strategically to support current market conditions and future growth.
Action 4.1.1: Inventory existing infrastructure, system linkages, capacity, efficiencies, and bottlenecks, and assess current and projected needs for food aggregation storage, processing, and distribution strategies in Massachusetts and regionally.
Action 4.1.2: Conduct research to assess vulnerabilities of food processing facilities, distribution systems, and supply chains as these vulnerabilities relate to climate change, sea level rise, and severe weather events. Determine proactive measures that prepare for emergencies and long term impacts on these systems.
Action 4.1.3: Support a statewide industry association to help provide better connectivity between policy, regulation, financing, and institutions related to the food processing industry.
Action 4.1.4: Perform zoning, land, and regulation assessment for on- and off-farm food manufacturing facilities to identify regulations that may unintentionally inhibit processing.
Action 4.1.5: Ensure food processing infrastructure complies with technical, safety, regulatory, and accessibility standards.
Action 4.1.6: Inventory underutilized or seasonally-used food processing facilities, and strategize matching these resources to food processing business demand.
Action 4.1.7: Assess the need for additional shared kitchen facilities and equipment that supports specific activities, including baking, canning, freezing, storage, co-packing, and distribution.
Action 4.1.8: Assess the need, capacity, and site suitability for food hubs or food innovation centers that perform a combination of services, including aggregation, distribution, storage, food processing, food retail, and product research and development. The activities may take place in one facility, or may be occurring as a part of a larger network of activities.
Action 4.1.8: Identify and inventory needs for updating existing, aging, or vacant food manufacturing facilities. Ensure that proposed updates take zoning and land use into account.
Action 4.1.9: Invest in food processing facilities including poultry, beef, and fish processing, small-batch dairy, and co-packing, as local and regional markets demands their development.
Action 4.1.10: Identify all existing major financing resources for food processing, and consider the gaps for financing particular types of processing infrastructure.
Action 4.1.11: Leverage public matching funds for food processing development or redevelopment projects, as such projects align with local food system needs.
Action 4.1.12: Encourage private investment in food processing infrastructure, as such investments align with local food system needs. Support the work of organizations already encouraging such private investment.
Action 4.1.13: Establish and distribute funds for local food processing facilities and equipment, especially where funds support initiatives that increase local food procurement and support job growth.
Recommendation 4.2: Encourage sustainable practices in food processing.
Action 4.2.1: Encourage and support the use of innovative, responsible food packaging by offering companies incentives for using recycled materials or reducing packaging.
Action 4.2.2: Incentivize food processors to incorporate more locally-sourced raw products for processing and packaging.