Issue #23 | October 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.
Complete the Collaborative’s Networks Survey 

The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative works to build a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient local food system in the Commonwealth. In order to do so effectively, we rely on informed and engaged stakeholders to participate in networks, campaigns, and other efforts to advocate for policy changes that support a healthy local food system. We have created a networks survey to understand how you participate in these efforts. Your feedback will help us better support you, your organization, and Massachusetts’ local food system. Please click here to complete the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative Networks Survey. 

Legislative hearings are Ongoing

Legislative committees are scheduling hearings on an almost daily basis right now, to hear testimony on bills filed in January and February. Watch for alerts on social media when opportunities arise for testimony on the Collaborative’s priority bills. And remember that written testimony is welcome at any time before bills are heard!
Highlights of the
Collaborative's work.
Food Waste Reduction Project Update

The Collaborative has been working to reduce food waste in MA through network building, advocacy, and research. Food waste poses an environmental hazard, as discarded organic materials in landfills create methane, a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change. And landfilling or incinerating food waste is expensive for municipalities and has public health and environmental impacts. 

The organic food waste ban has helped large businesses and institutions that dispose of over one ton of food waste per week to reduce the amount they create, donate edible food, and send food waste to compost or anaerobic digestion. Additionally, many residents compost in their backyards or have signed up for curbside compost collection. 

Municipalities also have a big role to play in making food waste diversion easy and appealing to all residents, schools, and businesses. There are many options available to municipalities to help reduce food waste; whether these approaches are appropriate may depend on the town’s location, population density, existence of a transfer station, and other resources. The Collaborative has put together a brief overview of some approaches that municipalities can use to help reduce food waste.
The Virtual MA Food System Forum: Coming in December!

The MA Food System Forum will be held virtually during the week of December 6. Interactive workshops will include topics such as climate change and agriculture; engaging in municipal advocacy; resident engagement; food system literacy; and racial equity. More details and registration will be available later this month.

Thank you to our sponsors:

  • Mass Food Trust
  • Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF)
  • Franklin County Community Development Corporation - Western MA Food Processing Center
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care / Tufts Health Plan / Points32Health
  • American Farmland Trust
  • Bay State Milling
  • Boston Public Market
  • edibleBoston
  • Farm Credit East
  • United State Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Legal Food Hub - A project of the Conservation Law Foundation
  • Blue Wave Solar
  • Center for EcoTechnology
  • Real Pickles
Inspiring work being done by some
of our friends in Massachusetts.
Hamilton Curbside Composting

The town of Hamilton has a mandatory curbside food scrap collection program for all residents. They began residential composting programs around 20 years ago, spurred in part by the work of its volunteer Recycle Committee. Over the years, the composting program has taken different forms. At one point, compost was collected weekly while trash was collected every other week. Around half of the town participated but participation dropped when the town went back to collecting trash every week. Now, if residents want their trash collected, they must also put out their green food scrap cart. Since beginning this mandatory program in May 2021, the town's hauler estimates that they are collecting around 40 tons of food waste every month, higher than with the previous collection models. 

The town has supported these programs through offering free kitchen counter bins and outdoor carts to every household, as well as through providing information and answering questions about composting. The town’s hauler has a split-body truck so they are able to collect trash and food waste on the same route. Though the tipping fees for compost are only about half the cost of that for trash, the hauling costs are higher as the town must pay for an additional part time staff person to assist with collection. The food scraps are brought to Brick Ends Farm in town to be composted and each Hamilton resident receives a free bucket of compost in the spring.
Thoughtful insights about
food system issues.
Beyond ‘food deserts’: America needs a new approach to mapping food insecurity

A report from the Brookings Institute shows that the research on food deserts - areas underserved by stores selling healthy foods - does not accurately represent how people shop for food, and doesn’t address financial insecurity, which is the largest barrier to consistent access to healthy food. Many food desert maps use geographical boundaries which people ignore when deciding where to shop, overlook the fact that many people shop somewhere other than at the location closest to where they live, and don’t include resilient community food access assets. Locating more grocery stores in low income areas could reduce travel times, increase job availability, and make healthy food more available, but the food may still be unaffordable. 

A better solution to increasing access to healthy foods may be anti-poverty programs and social safety net programs which serve to increase income and financial security. The country should modernize SNAP benefit levels and increase support for community-driven food security strategies that promote food justice, says the report. The Collaborative supports expanded access to the Healthy Incentives Program which enables people who use SNAP to double their money at farmers markets, and advocates for policies and funding for other food justice programs.

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.