Issue #5 | June 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
HIP Advocacy Works! State Adds Funding for Program
The Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) re-launched in May after a suspension of slightly more than a month. As the growing season begins, SNAP recipients are once again able to earn a one-to-one match for their purchases directly from farmers at participating farmers markets, mobile markets, farmstands, and CSAs.
The program’s suspension on April 15 happened because all funds budgeted for three years of HIP operations and incentives were exhausted after just over a year of operating. From April 1, 2017 through April 15, 2018 program participants earned more than $4.2 million in incentives, when the projected amount budgeted for had been approximately one-tenth of that.
Thanks to advocacy efforts from farmers, families, and food system organizations, the Massachusetts legislature proposed, and Governor Baker signed, a supplemental budget that provided $2.15 million for HIP through the end of the current fiscal year (June 30). The program re-launched on May 23. Read more.
Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report
The MA Food System Collaborative has released “Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report.” This report showcases organizations, businesses and networks working toward the goals in the MA Local Food Action Plan, which was completed at the end of 2015.

Each organization highlighted in the report is working toward a sustainable, equitable food system in creative and collaborative ways. A task force is enabling urban agriculture, while an island-based organization is running a program to turn food scraps into compost. Farms are improving their economic and environmental sustainability, and fishermen are working collectively to find a local market for underappreciated fish species. Groups are creating spaces for local butchering and local processing. Institutions are prioritizing purchasing local food, and businesses are connecting farmers to chefs. Advocates are promoting state policies to improve access to grocery stores and school breakfast, while farmers are participating in the Healthy Incentives Program to help more customers be able to purchase their produce. Many organizations are working to prepare children, adults, and people who are incarcerated to successfully fill jobs on farms or in restaurants, or even run their own food businesses.

Collectively, along with hundreds of other examples around the state, these efforts illustrate the breadth of the food system as well as the many ways issues like fair access to jobs, land, and food are being addressed.

The report is available here.
Environmental bond, APR legislation under consideration
The governor has introduced, and the legislature is considering, the quadrennial environmental bond bill. The 2018 version of this spending authorization ( H.4599, An Act promoting climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection, and investment in recreational assets and opportunity) proposes funding for many programs supported by Plan recommendations.

Also critical is that the State carry forward unexpended funds from the 2014 bond bill, so that those resources can still be invested in their respective programs. The Collaborative is particularly concerned with the fact that much of this authorization is never spent, so that the impression is given that the state is making significant capital investments in agriculture, but the spending never actually happens. Read more .
Farm to School Policy Project
The MA Food System Collaborative is working with Massachusetts Farm to School and other partners to develop and advocate for a set of policy changes that would increase schools’ ability to purchase more local food and incorporate more agricultural and nutrition education into their curricula.

When schools purchase foods from local producers, they introduce students to healthy, local foods and support local farmers, processors, and fishermen. Agricultural and nutrition education can be tied to school gardens and other STEM topics, and makes students aware of the food system and the importance of eating nutritious food. However, schools face many barriers to purchasing more local food and incorporating these topics into their curriculum. Read more .
Meeting of MA Food Policy Councils
More than 20 local food policy councils around Massachusetts are considering the food system and how to strengthen it at the local level. The MA Food System Collaborative is working to support these groups by facilitating a newly-created statewide network meant to strengthen connections between the groups, share best practices, and provide relevant education.
The first meeting brought together more than 20 representatives from local food policy councils to network, exchange resources, and learn about state-level food policy. Attendees discussed their advocacy for increased farm to institution procurement, urban agriculture policies, school food improvements, and the SNAP and HIP programs. They also compared notes on their varied structures and operations, and their successes in connecting community groups around food, planning for long-term solutions in their regions, and offering educational and networking opportunities to their members.
The Collaborative will continue to facilitate this network, and the next meeting will be in September. To learn more, please see this webpage or contact Brittany Peats.
MA Food system news we're reading
Food System Champion: Mill City Grows
Lowell’s Mill City Grows fosters food justice by improving physical health, economic independence and environmental sustainability in Lowell through increased access to land, locally-grown food and education.

The organization has five thriving Community Garden sites throughout Lowell, with two more being launched this spring. Members of the gardens can grow their own food and participate in community activities. At their three urban farms, Mill City Grows uses sustainable and organic practices to grow food for their mobile markets, food education programming, restaurants, and emergency food providers. Staff and volunteers help to maintain the farms.

Mill City Grows operates two mobile markets, selling the produce grown at their farms, along with produce, honey, and eggs from local farmers. The markets make ten stops throughout the city per week, June through October, and have two year-round locations. Through the mobile markets, Mill City Grows is able to bring fresh local produce at an affordable price to families that may not have a grocery store in their neighborhood.

Mill City Grows educates local residents through the School Garden Program at Lowell Public Schools, and through their own urban agriculture and community leadership education program. The organization has built gardens at 14 Lowell schools, and provides garden and nutrition education to students. The organization hosts the Garden Coordinator Institute, a workshop series for community and school garden leaders. During the growing season, they offer the hands-on Gardener Training Program and the Youth Food Justice Program about local food and food justice. They also offer a free Farm to Table Family Cooking Class series.

"We envision that Lowell will be known for its innovative approach to food production and food justice," reads the organization's vision statement, "where residents are engaged actors in creating a food secure community that promotes the ability to grow, consume, and distribute healthy, locally produced food on land that is seen as a vital resource for the community and is protected for food production."
System-changing Tool: Garden to Cafeteria Toolkit
Slow Food USA, in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, has developed the Garden to Cafeteria Toolkit to help school district food services safely bring school garden produce onto the lunch line.

The toolkit is designed to help school districts develop their own garden to cafeteria (GTC) program to help educate students on how food is grown, harvested and delivered to the school kitchens to be used in the preparation of the school meals. This toolkit contains templates, lessons learned and best practices from multiple school districts, NGOs and governmental agencies that have helped design successful programs across the country.

The toolkit provides the necessary steps to develop GTC protocols that emphasize food safety and the training protocols necessary to make sure that the food safety protocols are followed closely. It provides guidance on developing a GTC Team that will represent the different concerns in the district and creating workshops to train the school garden leaders and the kitchen staff on how to implement the GTC protocols. Once these important people are trained, the toolkit assists in launching a pilot phase where 5-10 schools are recruited to be the first ones in the district to grow fresh produce for the school kitchens. The toolkit contains Harvest Forms to track the amount of fresh produce that is coming into the kitchens. There are also surveys to get feedback from the school garden leaders and kitchen manager on how the program was run for its first year and whether there is any need to tweak the program for a full district launch the following year.
Upcoming Food System Events
On December 6, 2018, Mass. Farm to School will hold its 5th statewide conference, the Massachusetts Farm & Sea to School Conference . This year’s theme is Setting the Table: Communities Creating Change. The conference seeks to amplify traditionally underrepresented voices in the Massachusetts food system and identify strategies and resources for promoting racial equity and social justice as we grow the farm & sea to school movement. Proposals for workshops are being accepted through June 22.

Other event listings:

MDAR's monthly Farm and Market Report

Know of another great source of events? Let us know!
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 |