Issue #7 | Dec 2018
This quarterly newsletter keeps you informed about the work of the Collaborative and other organizations and institutions toward the goals of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan . You can also follow progress on our website , on Facebook , and on Twitter
Healthy Incentives Program: More Funding Extends HIP through February
Thanks to efforts from advocates, the legislature approved and the governor signed a measure allowing the Health Incentives Program (HIP) to access $1 million of unspent funds from the last fiscal year. As a result, the program has been extended through February 28, 2019, and is expected to resume in late spring. The extension is good news, but for the program to truly succeed, farmers and SNAP families need the consistency of a program that operates year-round. The Campaign for HIP Funding is ramping up for the beginning of the annual budget process in January, as we pursue an increase in support for the program toward that end.

As of the end of November, more than $8 million in incentives have been earned by more than 54,000 families since the launch of the program in April 2017. (DTA has begun publishing monthly fact sheets for HIP here .) Program participation has increased by about 25% this season over last, so our funding ask will reflect the need for additional resources. In early December, the Hampshire Gazette and the Greenfield Recorder ran an editorial in support of full funding for HIP.

The Collaborative has hired Rebecca Miller as Campaign Coordinator (see more below). She can be reached at , or 617-823-5169. Look for campaign updates from her soon, and follow the Campaign’s progress here.
2nd Annual Massachusetts Food System Forum
More than 200 advocates and practitioners from all sectors of the food system attended the 2nd annual Massachusetts Food System Forum on December 12 in Leominster. The day was spent highlighting food system stakeholders’ work over the past year, and planning for collaborative action to come.

Collaborative co-chair Liz Sheehan Castro, Director of Advocacy at the Worcester County Food Bank, welcomed attendees, and urged them to think about their work through the lens of the mission statement of The Food Project, “For the love of land, and for the love of people.” She added:

“And it is that love that must drive us to collaborate and problem solve and create a stronger, more resilient, more equitable food system. A food system that honors the land, and water and air. A food system that rectifies deep inequities in health, born of racism and classism. A food system that can support many cultures and traditions. 

So today, even as we’re talking about state budgets and legislative processes and other things that use our analytic brain, let us work from and return to that place of love that moves us to do this work.”

Read more about the Forum on our website .
Public Sector Progress Toward a Sustainable and Equitable Food System
Three years since the state of Massachusetts released the MA Local Food Action Plan, a report written by the Collaborative finds that action by the legislature, the administration, and state agencies has resulted in progress toward some of the Plan’s goals, and that additional efforts are needed on others. Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: Public sector progress, 2016-2018 , cites a number of recent state budget items and bills signed into law that directly address recommendations offered by the Plan, including:
  • $7.5 million in funding for the Healthy Incentives Program, which doubles SNAP families’ purchases of local foods.
  • A $2 million increase in the dairy tax credit, which helps Massachusetts dairy farms stay in business when the cost of production is more than the federally-set price paid for bulk milk.
  • A $1 million program to help farmers address the impacts of climate change.
  • The passage of a law that reduces the estate tax burden on farmers’ heirs.
  • Progress on ensuring that families eligible for SNAP receive benefits.
  • Investments made in marketing local seafood.
  • Significant updates to the state’s food safety regulations.

A number of recommendations from the Plan are cited as areas where the state has fallen short, such as:
  • Not having spent funds authorized in past years’ environmental bond bills that would help protect farmland and sustain farms.
  • Failing to move ahead with the development of a state Farmland Action Plan to establish formal farmland protection goals and benchmarks.
  • Not passing laws and regulations designed to reduce wasted edible food.
  • A lack of sufficient effort to evaluate and revive the state’s local food marketing programs.
  • Failing to pass a bill that would allow for local tax credits for urban agriculture.
  • Missed opportunities to consider comprehensive policy change.

Many other recommendations from the Plan are listed in the report as having had incremental progress as a result of action by state agencies and the legislature.
The report emphasizes the need for comprehensive efforts to address the challenges of the food system. “Considering any of the issues raised in the Plan to be solely the purview of single agency or committee misses opportunities to forge solutions that efficiently and effectively build a food system that is equitable and sustainable,” says Winton Pitcoff, director of the Collaborative. “Each sector of the food system is connected to the others, and this intricate web means wise investments and comprehensive policies can have deep and broad positive impacts, and neglect can cause irreparable harm.”
Food System Policy Issues in 2019
As the 2017-18 legislative session ends, the Collaborative has begun to develop a list of food system policy issues that will be in play in 2019. Some, such as a bill that would establish HIP in statute and another that would require more collaboration between municipal boards of health and agricultural commissions, are refiles of legislation that was considered this session but didn’t pass. Food waste, allowances for urban agriculture property tax credits, a farmland action plan, and other issues will be considered again as well. Funding for food system measurement tools, and establishing a food system caucus are among the new items that will be taken up in the next legislative session. A full list is available here . Food system organizations working on other related pieces of legislation should contact the Collaborative to discuss advocacy efforts.
Introducing Our New Staff Members
Rebecca Miller has joined the Collaborative to lead the Campaign for HIP Funding. Rebecca graduated from Clark University in Worcester, MA in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Global Environmental Studies and in 2016 with a Masters of Science in Environmental Science and Policy. Her Master’s research focused on policies surrounding wasted food and interventions for health improvements and waste reduction.

Rebecca previously worked on HIP as a program coordinator for Mass Farmers’ Markets, where she assisted farmers and market managers in the HIP on-boarding process, helped implement farmer and recipient surveys, and utilized grant funding to produce and distribute additional resources for HIP. Becca is looking forward to bringing folks into the campaign for HIP and hearing more personal stories from SNAP recipients on their HIP experience! When she’s not organizing for a more equitable and sustainable food system, Rebecca loves to cook (preferably with local veggies), run, hike and spend time with friends. She can be reached at or 617-823-5169.
Jeff Cole joins the Collaborative as our Agricultural Network Coordinator. Jeff is a 9th generation farmer at Silvermine Farm in Sutton, MA, where he has farmed with his wife Martha for over 30 years. He and Martha have five children, some of whom hope to continue farming in Sutton. Genealogy or fate buffs may be interested to know that after meeting in Maine and 10 years of marriage the couple discovered that they are distant cousins and Martha is the 11th generation on the farm. In recent years Jeff and Martha have provided their land and infrastructure to support beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers in Central Mass.

Jeff has a degree in Economics from Bates College. While in Maine he spent many, many hours in the woods fishing and enjoying nature. He worked as Mass Farmers Markets' Executive Director for 18 years and throughout his career has participated in collaborative work to support local farmers’ viability and preservation of agricultural land. Jeff has belonged to numerous agricultural groups and working groups, and is currently a member and Secretary of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, a member of the Boards of Health and Agriculture working group, and a Board member of the Worcester County Farm Bureau. His previous work has included research and general support to establish Integrated Pest Management Systems and MA Pesticide Applicators training and licensing, and serving as a founding Board Member of the Boston Public Market and the National Farmers Market Coalition. Jeff helped establish the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, agricultural commissions, wine sales at farmers markets, the USDA-AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Healthy Incentives Pilot, and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) program, and worked to secure farm exemptions to the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Jeff has focused his careers on assisting farmers, organizations, and the public to create systemic change through collaboration, education, and building networks of support. He is thrilled to continue this work by providing outreach and support to farmers and their organizations to help define shared priorities under the MA Local Food Action Plan with a focus on advocacy to address laws and regulations that support farmers, work to build consensus around controversial issues, and facilitate agriculturally-based collaborative learning, technical assistance, and marketing. H e can be reached at or 339-222-2871 .
Developing a New Resource for Farmers Markets
As HIP and other programs have helped to shift the demographics of farmers markets to become more representative of the communities they serve, some markets have struggled with adapting to these changes. In response, the Collaborative is working with former MDAR Commissioner Greg Watson to design a workshop for market managers about diversity and equity at farmers markets. The workshop will be offered early in 2019. For more information, contact Brittany Peats at .
Mass Food Trust Program - Now Accepting Applications
The Massachusetts Food Trust is a grant, loan and business assistance program designed to help increase access to healthy food in low income areas throughout the state. Projects that may be eligible for funding or assistance include grocery stores, corner stores, co-ops, farmers markets, food hubs, community kitchens, food truck commissaries, greenhouses and other infrastructure for gathering, preparing and distributing healthy food for retail in areas that are lower-income and underserved. The program is now accepting applications. Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis while funds remain available.
Food System Champion: Regional Environmental Council
At YouthGROW in Worcester, learning about food is much more than just understanding how to cook healthy meals. It’s also about developing job and leadership skills. Every spring, about 200 teenagers apply for the 10 open slots at this program of the Regional Environmental Council (REC). “This is a testament to the program and to how much it is needed,” says Grace Sliwoski, Director of Programs at REC.

The multi-year, multi-faceted program also teaches students how to grow their own food and where to find healthy food in their communities. Says Grace, “We are developing leaders in the food justice movement.”

The high schoolers who participate in YouthGROW are paid hourly to work at REC’s two urban agriculture sites during the summer. They also do service learning at local farms, participate in community service, and attend workshops as part of the year-round curriculum. Participants are also paid for their time when they attend food conferences; “This gives young people the opportunity to weigh in on these issues and provide a wider perspective on food,” says Grace.

YouthGROW produces about 4,000 pounds of produce annually, which is sold at REC’s mobile market. To increase sales and profitability, participants decided to make and sell a value-added product. After testing salsa, salad dressing, and pesto, they settled on a hot sauce using peppers they grow, as hot sauce was appealing to people from many cultural backgrounds. Drop It Like It’s Hot Sauce is sold from REC’s Mobile Market, at the Beaver Brook Park Farmers Market, and at REC’s office.

This is one of several dozen profiles of MA food system stakeholders featured in the Collaborative's June 2018 Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report.
Farm and Market Report
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources publishes the  Farm and Market Report . a bi-monthly e-newsletter which includes a Commissioner's Column, program and grant updates, workshop and educational updates, USDA News, and calendar and classifieds sections. To receive the e-newsletter or contribute articles, news or events, email Rick LeBlanc at
MA Food system news we're reading
The Port of New Bedford was the largest port in the U.S. in 2017, by value of fish landings.

Organizations like Land for Good and American Farmland Trust are working to match retiring farmers with the next generation .

After completing a Community Food Assessment Plan , the city of Everett will create a Food Policy Council.

The Boston City Council may soon adopt The Good Food Purchasing Program to help Boston Public Schools purchase more local food.

Here are some tips to reduce food waste from the Center for Eco Technology.

Want to keep up with food system news like these articles? Follow us on Facebook !
Upcoming Food System Events
Food System Job Postings
The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative promotes, monitors, and facilitates implementation of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan . We bring together nonprofit trade and advocacy groups, businesses, academics, policymakers, regulators, and consumers to advance recommendations toward the Plan's goals.
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative |