Issue #24 | November 2021

Supporting collective action
toward an equitable, sustainable, resilient, and connected local
food system in Massachusetts.

Things you can do right now to
support systemic policy change.
Food System Items in ARPA Spending

Legislators are debating how to spend $5.3 billion in federal recovery funds, with some of it targeted to food system needs. Learn more here.

Farmer Input Needed on State Climate Change Planning

As the state writes rules and makes plans related to addressing climate change, they need to hear from farmers about the role and needs of agriculture.

Provide Input on MDAR's Environmental Justice Work

MDAR is seeking input into their environmental justice planning work.
Highlights of the
Collaborative's work.
Food System Literacy

The Collaborative is facilitating a campaign to expand food system education in K-12 schools in Massachusetts. Food system literacy enables people to be independent, thoughtful, healthy participants in the food system. Students should learn where their food comes from, how to prepare healthy meals for themselves, why not everyone has equal access to nutritious food, and how they can help rectify inequities. In schools, food system education can be connected to virtually any other subject and is a great subject around which to do interdisciplinary and project-based learning. Comprehensive food system education is rarely required by federal, state, or district standards, and doesn’t appear on standardized testing, however many Massachusetts students already have access to creative food system education. 

Over the course of this year, we have conducted dozens of interviews with school-based and nonprofit-based educators across the state. We learned about the many ways food literacy is taught and what students gained from these lessons. We heard about why these programs have been successful and as well as what funding, support, and policy changes at the state and local level would help them thrive and enable other schools to offer similar programs. We will compile these learnings into a public report and use them to shape our campaign for more food system education. For more information, please contact Brittany Peats.

Food Waste Ban Threshold Lowered

Beginning on November 1, 2022, all businesses that generate over one-half ton of food material per week will be required to divert that material. This is a lowering of the one-ton threshold that has been in place since October 1, 2014, and was issued alongside the 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan. Based on estimates from MassDEP in 2019, this lower threshold will require around 1,800 additional businesses to reduce how much food waste they create, donate their excess edible food, or send it to become animal feed, compost, or be anaerobically digested. The Collaborative applauds this next step toward reducing food waste in Massachusetts and acknowledges the important advocacy of many organizations, many of whom are part of the Collaborative’s Food Waste Reduction Network. RecyclingWorks provides free technical assistance to help businesses and institutions reduce food waste. For more information, please contact Brittany Peats.

Registration is Open for the MA Food System Virtual Forum 

The MA Food System Forum will be held online December 3 - 9, 2021. We look forward to gathering virtually to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the food system in Massachusetts, and strategize about how to best address them together. Sessions will include panelist presentations and discussions. Please register for each session you would like to attend via the provided links. Please see our website for more information about each panel.

Agenda and Registration Links

Friday, December 3             
10:30 - 12:00: Keynote: Stop monocropping food system solutions: If you wouldn’t grow that way, why work that way? - Register Here

Monday, December 6              
10:30 - 12:00: The power of locally controlled food supply chains - Register Here
1:00 - 2:30: Lessons from municipal food system policy campaigns - Register Here     

Tuesday, December 7                         
10:30 - 12:00: Farming in the face of climate change - Register Here 
1:00 - 2:30: Strengthening community-led food system work - Register Here

Wednesday, December 8             
10:00 - 12:00: MA Food System policy advocacy: Current campaigns and advocacy skill-building - Register Here   
1:00 - 2:30: Balancing emergency response and systemic solutions to food insecurity - Register Here

Thursday, December 9             
10:30 - 12:00: Being an Ally: Collaborating with and Empowering BIPOC Partners - Register Here
1:00 - 2:30: Expanding food system education in K-12 schools - Register Here


Registration for all Forum events is free, thanks to our sponsors:

NEFNE quarterly meeting invitation

The New England State Food System Planners Partnership invites everyone to a discussion and quarterly information meeting about the New England Feeding New England Project. The meeting will be on Tuesday, November 16 from 12:15pm - 1:30pm. Please register for this event on Eventbrite. For more information, please contact or visit the website.
Inspiring work being done by some
of our friends in Massachusetts.
Sustainable Food Systems course at the Innovation Academy Charter School

Sustainable Food Systems is a new lab science class at the Innovation Academy Charter School in Tyngsborough, taught by biology teacher Anna Cynar. This course combines the history of the food system, culinary history and skills, sustainability, plant science, and food science.

The course begins with students mapping their personal food systems. They then focus on indigenous foodways and growing traditions, land removal, and the domestication of crops. During that unit, they make a three sisters succotash, sample foods from indigenous-run businesses, and research indigenous people and organizations working on food issues. The next unit focuses on the African diaspora and their impact on US history and cuisine, including their contributions to farming techniques and beginning CSAs and free lunches, as well as ongoing inequities in land ownership due to slavery, redlining, and other racist policies. 

The class then focuses on the transition to industrial agriculture, as well as some responses including small-scale and diversified farming. They learn about food waste by doing food waste audits, look at climate friendly diets through studying the Lancet Report, talk about the impact of biotech on food while sampling meat alternatives (see the beet burgers above), and study food taboos while making dishes from crickets. Students learn about food policy by studying inequities in the food system and proposing solutions. 

The second semester focuses on growing plants. After discussing seed diversity and culturally relevant crops, they select what to plant in their school garden. The students then tend to the plants to prepare them for the school’s plant sale during which time they learn about plant science. While studying food science, they get hands-on experience with fermentation and enzymes through baking bread and making cheese.
Thoughtful insights about
food system issues.
Identifying Critical Thresholds for Resilient Regional Food Flows: A Case Study From the U.S. Upper Midwest

This interesting case study from the upper Midwest explores the potential and challenges of regional food supply from many angles. Regional suppliers are critical to food system resilience but represent only a small fraction of the nation's food suppliers. This research included a study of the conventional food supply networks and the key opportunities for shifting to a more regional food supply chain, as well as a multi disciplinary advisory group. One main takeaway is that some parts of the food system strive for diversity - such as small scale farming - while others strive for efficiency - such as consolidated transportation - leading to conflicts, while in fact a balance of the two priorities may be ideal for resilience. The Collaborative is part of the New England Feeding New England Project, which is working to strengthen the regional food system in some of the ways identified by this research.

The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative envisions a local food system where everyone has access to healthy food, to land to grow food, to good jobs, and to the systems where policy decisions are made. Read more about our vision and our work.