Issue #21 | August 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.
Reach out to legislators about grants for food system infrastructure. MA legislators need to hear from you now about the importance of renewing the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program. Learn more here.

Prepare your testimony on local food system bills. Hearings on proposed legislation will begin in earnest after the August recess. Now is a great time to prepare and submit testimony on priority bills.

Send comments to the USDA on equity in agriculture. Submit comments by August 14 on USDA’s racial justice and equity efforts. Learn more here.

Highlights of the
Collaborative's work.
Norris Guscott to Lead Equity Policy Network

Hello everyone, I’m Norris Guscott, the MA Food System Collaborative’s new Equity Policy Network Manager! I’ve been involved with organizing, advocacy, research, and policy at the intersection of food and public health in low income communities for more than 10 years, community organizing around urban agriculture and food since age 15, and have co-authored research that looks at the health benefits of urban agriculture on community health. I intend to bring my passion for communities across Massachusetts, academia-minded solutions to problem solving, and lived experiences to this role.

My intent is to build and engage a network of Massachusetts BIPOC farmers, food equity leaders, and the organizations that represent and support them. The hope is that the network will advocate for public policy that supports equity in access to land, jobs, education, and other resources needed for BIPOC farmers to be sustainable in their businesses and for the food system to be truly equitable for everyone.  BIPOC Communities suffer food-related disease 2x-3x normal rate, BIPOC farmers make up less than 1.5% of farmers in the state (think of the missed job creation/local produce/economic revenue), and throughout history if you look at legislation like heirs property laws and the California Alien Land Law, we can see that crafting of legislation has fallen well short of committing to equity.

The Time is Now. There are currently no efforts in Massachusetts working to build, organize, and empower this network of BIPOC farmers and the organizations that represent them. This is vital in order to build statewide capacity to advocate for policy that brings about the conditions and required resources for farming to be economically sustainable for BIPOC farmers and to have a truly equitable food system.

A great first step would be for everyone to learn about S.502/H.860, ‘An Act Promoting Equity in Agriculture,’ that I helped to spearhead, alongside the Network’s working group. It contains language we feel is vital to address equity issues across the state. I look forward to working in partnership with the many organizations that this work will undoubtedly lead me to, and look forward to seeing this equity network grow! You can contact me at

Inspiring work being done by some
of our friends in Massachusetts.
Boston Area Gleaners Connects the Food Chain

Boston Area Gleaners (BAG) began a new chapter in late July, closing on the purchase of Stonefield Farm in Acton. The new farm and infrastructure gives the organization an opportunity to expand food production for their Boston Food Hub operation, as well as for their work increasing healthy food access for low-income households.

BAG has organized volunteers to glean excess produce from farms around the state to supply food access organizations for 17 years. They distributed 8 million pounds of food in 2020, helping important agencies like Food for Free and the Greater Boston Food Bank provide fresh local food to hundreds of thousands of households who needed assistance during the pandemic.

The Boston Food Hub has been connecting wholesale growers with buyers for several years, expanding access to Massachusetts-grown foods for retailers by providing aggregation and distribution services. The greenhouses, cold storage, and loading dock at the new farm will allow them to increase the services of this social enterprise, with all net revenue going to support BAG’s mission-related work.

The BAG model reduces food waste, provides fresh produce to households that need it, and helps sustain local farms. The expansion also helps ensure that the 51-acre farm, in agricultural production for more than 300 years already, stays in production in perpetuity, thanks to a deed restriction and an investment of $1.2 million in community preservation funding from the town.
Thoughtful insights about
food system issues.
True Cost of Food: Measuring What Matters to Transform the U.S. Food System, The Rockefeller Foundation

Americans pay more for their food than just the price at the store, says this report - as much as three times that expenditure. The healthcare costs associated with diet-related diseases and the environmental costs of exploitative agriculture add significantly to the cost of food, burdens borne disproportionately by communities of color. More accurately accounting for the ‘true cost of food,’ says the authors, will enable policy makers, the private sector, and advocates to begin to change the food system. Recommended solutions include expanding government safety net programs, addressing historic and ongoing discrimination of BIPOC food system workers, and educating consumers to make better food choices. These issues are at the root of many food system inequities, from the fact that millions of people are nutrition insecure, to the issue of farmers not being paid enough for their crops to cover the costs of production. Many of the Collaborative’s priorities align with these recommendations.

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.