Issue #4 | March 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
Ongoing Support for the Healthy Incentives Program
More than 80 advocates, farmers, and SNAP recipients participated in HIP Lobby Day at the Massachusetts State House on March 1, meeting with legislators and staff to educate them about the Healthy Incentives Program and the need for ongoing funding to support it. The Program provides a dollar-for-dollar match for SNAP dollars spent on fruits and vegetables purchased at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs statewide. Every dollar allocated to this program is a direct investment in the health of Massachusetts residents and communities, our local economy, and our natural resources.

The day, organized by the Collaborative, began with a well-attended briefing held for legislators and staff, with speakers including Liz O’Gilvie, Chair of the Springfield Food Policy Council; farmer Dave Dumaresq from Dracut; and Collaborative Director Winton Pitcoff. Advocates were then tasked with visiting each of the 200 senators’ and representatives’ offices to tell the story of the tremendous impact HIP has had on families, farms, and communities, and to ask for support for the program. Read more.
Protecting the Tools for Land Protection
Massachusetts’ Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program is one of the oldest state farmland protection programs in the country. Enacted in 1977, the program targets the most productive soils and purchases perpetual easements that assure the land will be available for farming for generations to come. 

Since the program’s inception, provisions have been added that work to keep farmland affordable. These first took the form of a “Right of First Refusal” (ROFR) and have shifted over time to be “Options to Purchase at Agricultural Value” (OPAV). These provisions require that landowners first offer the property for sale to the Commonwealth at its agricultural value, prior to selling a restricted property on the open market. Read more .
Commercial Food Waste Ban Working:
Food Waste Diversion Doubles in Two Years,
Creates Jobs and Economic Activity
On October 1, 2014 the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) began enforcing the Commercial Food Waste Ban, an effort to divert food waste from landfills. MassDEP targeted food waste and other organics in part because it was the largest segment of the municipal solid waste stream. Food and other organics account for well over a million tons a year of the approximately 5.5 million tons of waste Massachusetts disposes of in landfills and incinerators every year.

In 2014, MassDEP estimated that about 100,000 tons of food waste was already being diverted each year. MassDEP’s goal, stated in the 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan, was to divert an additional 350,000 tons a year of food waste by 2020. Read more .
Food System Bills Making Their Way Through the Legislature
A number of deadlines have passed by which bills needed to be passed favorably out of committee to have a chance of being considered by the full Massachusetts legislature before the end of their session later this year. Many bills important to the food system have made it over this hurdle, thanks to the efforts of advocacy groups around the state.

The Collaborative’s priority bills, addressing issues such as food waste, the Healthy Incentives Program, and ensuring that farmers have input into local health regulations, among others, are all included on our 2018 legislative priorities page here .

Organizations and individuals are urged to contact their legislators to express their support for these bills. For more information, contact Winton Pitcoff.
Progress on Other Plan Action Items
Along with the legislative items mentioned above, progress has been made on a number of other key recommendations from the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, including:

Farming 2.2.2 : Engage farmers and other relevant stakeholders in a review of nutrient management regulations; update as needed.

MDAR has enacted revised nutrient regulations which represent a significant improvement over earlier versions that farmers had raised concerns about, according to the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation’s January/February newsletter. The new regulations, “designed to protect water quality and help ensure municipal compliance with provisions in the Federal Clean Water Act,” are available here . The law also largely pre-empts municipal regulation of nutrients. Information on technical assistance with the new regulations is available here .

Food Access, Security and Health 2.2.1 : Develop, test, and deploy a common application portal, either as improvement to the existing Virtual Gateway or new system, to enable people to apply for SNAP when applying for or renewing MassHealth membership.

This portal would enable low income people to have easier access to the programs and reduce paperwork across several Massachusetts agencies. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has drafted a Request for Quotes for an Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment Processes Consultant. “The consultant will identify a solution that will provide a client with a single application experience for benefits at the following agencies: Massachusetts Office of Medicaid/MassHealth, Massachusetts Health Connector Authority, Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Department of Public Health/WIC, Department of Early Education and Care, and Department of Housing and Community Development.” At the same time, EOHHS is making improvements to its Master Data Management system to better inform client services across agencies.
MA Food system news we're reading
Hunger and food insecurity in Massachusetts increased health-related expenditures by at least $2.4 billion in 2016, according to a new report $2.4 Billion: The Avoidable Health Costs of Hunger in Massachusetts , published by the Greater Boston Food Bank and Children’s HeathWatch.

Commonwealth Kitchen is supporting food businesses by providing everything from business technical assistance to shared kitchen space for processing.

Land for Good released a collection of successful and innovative program, practice and policy ideas related to farmland succession and protection from their 2017 national conference .

Want to keep up with food system news like these articles? Follow us on Facebook !
Food System Champion: Project Bread
Project Bread works “to promote sustainable and reliable access to healthy food for all, to invest in the strength and resiliency of local communities, and to collaborate with others in building a robust regional food system.” Its programs, education, and policy advocacy look beyond the provision of emergency food for families in need, to addressing the need for systemic change to alleviate hunger.

Perhaps most widely known for their annual Walk for Hunger , celebrating its 50th year this May, Project Bread uses the money raised from the event to fund innovative, community-based efforts to reduce hunger. They funded 263 organizations around Massachusetts in 2017 alone, from community meals programs, to school gardens, to statewide advocacy organizations, to the Healthy Incentives Program.

Project Bread operates several programs of their own as well, such as their Chefs in Schools program, which brings chefs into school cafeteria kitchens to work with staff to create healthier meals—on a public school budget—that children will find tasty and visually appealing. The program works to increase low-income students' consumption of healthy foods; expose students to nutritious meals that taste good; and gives school districts the tools they need to offer healthy, fresh meals every day. Through the Program, Project Bread has demonstrated that healthy food can be offered within the federal reimbursable meal budget that, when prepared in an appealing way, children will eat it.

Other Project Bread programs include their Child Nutrition Outreach Program, which provides technical assistance and innovative solutions to support schools to implement and expand breakfast programs; the Healthy Shares program, which subsidizes CSA shares of fresh produce from local farms for families struggling with food insecurity; and the FoodSource Hotline, which connects food insecure people with public resources and local help to help them find the right solutions for their needs, and which served more than 28,000 callers Massachusetts in 2017. Their annual Status Report on Hunger in Massachusetts presents data about food insecurity and serves as a tool for anti-hunger advocates as they work on policy solutions.

Along with its programs, Project Bread engages thousands of people around Massachusetts in advocacy efforts to support programs and policies that reduce hunger. By educating people about the importance of programs such as the Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which supports schools in high-need areas in providing healthy meals to students, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Project Bread is building a base of informed, engaged people who work to advocate for these important programs. At the same time, recognizing that poverty is a root cause of hunger, Project Bread says “While programs such as SNAP offer necessary assistance, there is no substitute for a living wage,” and actively supports legislation that would increase Massachusetts’ minimum wage to $15 by 2021.

By combining practice and policy, Project Bread works to break the cycle of hunger. Their innovative approaches to programs, investments in community-led solutions, and support for policy change that addresses the root causes of hunger have had a lasting impact on Massachusetts’ food system.
System-changing Tool: Municipal food policy
The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic has published Good Laws, Good Food: Putting Local Food Policy to Work for Our Communities , a guide for municipalities to use when considering laws related to the food system. With chapters on infrastructure, land-use, procurement, and more, this legal toolkit does a great job explaining the interplay between federal, state and local laws and regulations, and offering examples of projects and policies in cities and towns around the country that represent efforts toward sustainable and equitable food systems. The guide offers many suggestions for how to find and act on opportunities to ensure that food system issues are carefully addressed in public sector programs and policies.
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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.
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