Issue #2 | August 2017

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: Off to a great start
After more than two years of planning and development, the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) issued its first incentives in April, and has already far surpassed expected participation. In addition, the Massachusetts Legislature and governor, recognizing the importance of the program, made a significant investment in HIP in the State’s FY’18 budget. This statewide program offers a one-for-one match to SNAP recipients when they use their EBT cards to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from participating farms at farmstands, farmers markets, mobile markets, and CSAs. Read more...
Food waste bills being considered in the legislature
At least 12 bills have been filed in the Massachusetts Legislature that would take steps toward reducing the amount of edible food currently ending up in the waste stream. As recommended by the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, these bills address issues such as providing tax incentives for donations, reducing liability concerns for donors, and standardizing date labeling requirements.

The Collaborative hosted a briefing at the State House on July 27 to educate lawmakers about the issue and opportunities for solutions. Sponsored by Senator Eileen Donoghue and Representative Hannah Kane, the event featured speakers from the Collaborative, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, Conservation Law Foundation, Lovin' Spoonfuls, and Bill Emerson Food Donation Act Awareness Campaign. The Collaborative presented of a briefing document developed by the Collaborative, in partnership with many other agriculture, food access, and food recovery organizations. Legislators and staff from more than 60 officials’ offices attended the event.

As the bills make their way through the legislature, there will be many opportunities for input and education. Please contact Collaborative Director Winton Pitcoff if you would like to be part of this effort.
Equity, race, and the food system
In an effort to ensure that our work considers and engages all Massachusetts residents, particularly those who have traditionally been excluded or marginalized, the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative has been hosting discussions around the state to hear from individuals and organizations about their perspectives on equity, race, and the food system. These discussions are intended to help us learn about the work being done at the nexus of equity, race and the food system, identify how the Collaborative might support this work through its policy efforts and network approach, and expand our thinking about race and its impact on the food system to better inform our activities. Read more...
Addressing farmland challenges in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan notes that farmland is the foundational infrastructure for the Commonwealth’s agricultural industry, and specifically recognizes the need to address two challenges: protect our most productive farmland for the future, and find ways to keep farms in farming as the $1.8 billion in land and other agricultural assets that our senior farmers own change hands over the next two decades. As demand for Massachusetts-grown foods grows, and efforts to keep those foods affordable for all communities increase, the need for these solutions has never been more urgent. Read more...
Protecting farms by reducing the estate tax burden
While speaking at Agriculture Day at the Massachusetts State House in April, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation President Ed Davidian raised the idea of reducing the impact of the Massachusetts estate tax on our family farms. The idea apparently resonated with Governor Charlie Barker who interrupted, shouting “that’s a great idea!” There are two bills working their way through the legislature that would address this issue. Read more...
Legislative notes
Other good news from the state budget

Along with funding for HIP (see article), a number of other food system efforts prioritized in the Plan received attention in the State’s FY’18 budget, including:

  • Massachusetts Food Trust. $100,000 for operating and administrative costs to implement the $1 million appropriated for this grant and loan program.
  • Mass in Motion: The program was funded at the same level as in FY’17.
  • SNAP Gap and Common Application. Agencies were tasked with conducting a feasibility study for an application process that would give households better access to state and federal benefits.
  • Buy Locals. $300,000 was allocated to the state’s buy local organizations.
  • Mass Farm to School: $120,000 was allocated to Mass Farm to School.
  • MEFAP: $17,000,000 was allocated to the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program.
Bills to watch
Many bills that would address recommendations in the Plan are under consideration in this legislative session, including:
  • The Rise and Shine Massachusetts coalition is leading the campaign to support passage of An Act regarding Breakfast in the Classroom (S.242 / H.327), legislation that would require high-poverty Massachusetts schools to adopt Breakfast After the Bell (plan recommendation).
  • Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation is working to pass An Act to promote the care and well-being of livestock (H.441), which would establish a Livestock Care and Standards Board and amplify farmers’ voices as regulations are made around humane care of animals (plan recommendation).
  • Efforts to raise Massachusetts’ minimum wage to $15 an hour (S.1004 / H.2365), a policy change supported by the Plan as critical to ensuring better access to healthy food for low-income households (plan recommendation), are being led by Raise Up Massachusetts.
  • Development of An Act relative to Agricultural Commission input on board of health regulations (H.2465) was led by the Collaborative’s Working Group on Farming and Public Health and had its first hearing before the Joint Committee on Public Health in July. The bill would require municipal boards of health to consult with local agricultural commissions when considering regulations related to farming (plan recommendation).
See a full list of pending food system legislation here.
Food System Champion: Center for EcoTechnology
Many of the recommendations of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan align perfectly with the mission and the work of the Center for EcoTechnology (CET), in part thanks to the leadership role CET played during the planning process, and for several decades before. For more than 40 years, the organization has supported waste diversion and energy efficiency through education, resources, and services to individuals, businesses, and institutions.

CET’s composting programs at schools and for homeowners help develop composting habits and valuable awareness of the life-cycles of natural resources. CET also assists farms in starting composting programs for excess plant material and animal manures, activities that can help farmers save on input costs and develop new revenue streams that naturally fit into their existing operations, all while protecting natural resources.

CET also manages the state-funded Massachusetts Farm Energy Program, helping farms navigate and utilize energy efficiency and renewable energy programs that can help cut costs and potentially generate revenue, while increasing energy sustainability in the food system. For other food system businesses, such as restaurants, food stores, cafeterias, or other food preparation and food service sites, CET offers technical assistance to start composting programs.

In addition, CET operates Recycling Works, a waste reduction program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) which plays a key role in implementing the Commercial Food Waste Ban. In 2016, calls to CETs hotline resulted in more than 30 tons of food being donated, and much more being diverted from landfills to composting facilities.

System-changing Tool:
For the many communities and regions of the Commonwealth developing plans for supporting local agriculture, healthy eating, and equitable access to food, Growing Local: A Community Guide to Planning for Agriculture and Food Systems, published by American Farmland Trust, is an invaluable guide. With sections on both planning and implementation, the resource include basic information on the range of issues a planning process should cover, guidance on how to engage communities in the effort, tips on developing goals and strategies for attaining them, and details on the web of public and private players and programs that need to be considered throughout a comprehensive planning project.

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The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative (MFSC) 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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