Issue #3 | December 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
More than 200 people attend 2017 MA Food System Forum
The MA Food System Collaborative hosted the 2017 Massachusetts Food System Forum in Leominster on November 17. More than 200 people, from farmers to funders, elected officials to nonprofit leaders, looked back at how the food system has become stronger in the two years since the completion of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan and generated ideas on how to work together to continue to move toward the goals of the Plan.

Speakers highlighted projects that demonstrate the importance of connectivity in the food system and shared stories of successful advocacy efforts.. Breakout discussions focused on topics from food waste to school food to farmland access, and elicited suggestions for working collectively going forward. To read more about the Forum, click here.
HIP: Continued success for SNAP households and farmers, with more than $2.5 in HIP incentives earned
The Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) has far outpaced expectations, with SNAP recipients purchasing more than $2.5 million of fresh produce from local farmers between April and November, and earning an equal amount of incentives in the process. In the first seven months of HIP, 58,000 SNAP clients benefited from the program, exceeding redemption expectations by more than 470%. Nearly 50% of the 33,000 households that have benefited include a senior, and more than 30% include a child.

The program provides a one-for-one match, adding money back onto a SNAP recipient’s EBT card whenever they use the card to purchase fresh fruits or vegetables at a participating farmstand, farmers market, CSA, or mobile market, up to a monthly limit depending upon household size. The program improves health outcomes in some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable communities, and helps keep local farms sustainable. Read more .
Input needed on important food system bills
The legislature is considering dozens of bills that relate to the food system this session, many of them that directly address recommendations and action items in the Plan. Three bills in particular are priorities for the Collaborative.

The first is H.2131, An Act relative to an agricultural healthy incentives program, which would codify the Healthy Incentives Program in statute, ensuring its long-term sustainability as required by USDA as a condition of the initial funding for the program. This bill was heard by the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee on 5/31/17, reported favorably, and referred to the committee on Health Care Financing.

The second is H.2465, An Act relative to Agricultural Commission input on board of health regulations, which came out of the Collaborative’s Working Group on Farming and Public Health and would ensure that farmers have an opportunity to provide feedback on decisions about local health regulations that impact their operations. This bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Public Health on 6/29/17.

The third is S.838/H.3327, An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need. These are two of many bills related to food waste being considered, and address issues of both liability relief and tax incentives for donations. As the bills move through the process, there will be opportunities for advocates to recommend additional items for consideration, such as those developed by the Collaborative. These bills were heard by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on 9/12/17.

Organizations and individuals are urged to contact their legislators to express their support for these bills. For more information, contact Winton Pitcoff.
Funds Available for Food Access Infrastructure
Eight years after advocates began campaigning for dedicated public support for infrastructure that will promote access to healthy food for underserved communities, the State has released an RFP for the first round of funding from the Massachusetts Food Trust. The program will provide $1 million in grants to establish a financing infrastructure “that increases access to healthy, affordable food options, with a preference for fresh locally sourced Massachusetts grown, caught or harvested healthy food and to improve economic opportunities for nutritionally underserved communities in urban, rural and suburban localities.”

Community Development Financial Institutions and Community Development Corporations are eligible to apply for the funds, with which they “may provide loans, grants and technical assistance to support entities that have shown a meaningful commitment to sell fresh products.” Funded projects may be food processing infrastructure, farmers markets, food hubs, or other food retailers or distributors. All funded projects must accept federal and state food benefits, such as SNAP. Details about eligible projects, and further information about the RFP and the Food Trust, are available here .

The Massachusetts Public Health Association, which has been leading the push to launch the Trust, is “continuing to work with Governor Baker’s office to align the RFP with national best practices so that the program has the ability to leverage significant private investment and have the greatest impact on increasing access to healthy food and jobs in low and moderate income communities across the Commonwealth.” More information on MPHA’s work on the Trust is available here .

Support for the Trust was called for in the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan in several action items in the Distribution section, including action item 1.1.3 : “Provide loans, grants, and technical assistance through the Massachusetts Food Trust to support new and expanded healthy food retailers and local food enterprises in low- and moderate-income communities that will create jobs.”
Grants Made to Support Economic Development and Healthy Food Access
Four organizations are sharing $700,000 in grants from the State of Massachusetts through the Department of Agricultural Resources’ Food Ventures Program, a grant program intended to address food access and expansion of economic opportunities through new food ventures and enterprises throughout the state. The program is aligned with the goals of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan, in that it works to improve access to Massachusetts grown foods. Applicants are required to describe how their project addresses the goals of the Plan.

UTEC, Inc. in Lowell will upgrade their commercial kitchen to better meet the needs of local entrepreneurs who use the facility for processing and preparation of their food products. Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation in Roxbury will use their grant to purchase equipment for a community grocery store the organization is developing, which works with local growers and processors to increase equitable access to fresh, healthy foods. The Livestock Institute of Southern New England will apply their grant toward construction costs for their Westport slaughterhouse and processing facility that will help revitalize and strengthen livestock farming in Southeastern Massachusetts. And World Farmers in Lancaster will receive support to renovate their commercial community kitchen, enabling nearly 250 immigrant and refugee farmers at the organization’s farm to produce value-added products as well as provide commercial kitchen space to local businesses and new food businesses.
MA Food system news we're reading
The Worcester Regional Food Hub enables local schools to receive fresh produce from 20 local farms - and the students at the Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School are enjoying the tasty produce .

Springfield residents have been fighting to bring a grocery store to their neighborhood for years. The impact of the lack of accessible healthy food on their health and their wallets is striking.

Low income individuals who participate in SNAP had average annual health care costs that were $1,400 less than low income individuals who were not part of the program, according to a study led by a Massachusetts General Hospital investigator.

The Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program is 40 years old, and has permanently protected from development roughly 73,000 acres on 906 farms .

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Erin McAleer New President at Project Bread
After an extensive national search, the Project Bread Board of Directors has appointed Erin McAleer as Project Bread’s new President. Erin began her role on October 3, 2017. After receiving her MSW from Boston College’s School of Social Work, Erin went to work in the State House serving as Chief of Staff at the Department of Transitional Assistance; Legislative Director for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services; and Director of Cabinet Affairs as a senior member of Governor Deval Patrick’s team. Erin then took her strength in strategic and operational leadership, coalition building, and organizational growth experience to a nonprofit called Be The Change, Inc. as Director of Opportunity Boston, an initiative focused on developing a comprehensive strategy to improve opportunity for children living in poverty in Boston.

Project Bread brings a fresh approach to ending hunger. Its goals are 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. Project Bread works to break the cycle of hunger and poverty by devising, funding, advocating for, and facilitating solutions that change lives across the Commonwealth. As the only statewide anti-hunger organization, Project Bread listens and learns, identifies needs and opportunities, and connects people, resources, and programs—in ways both tried and new.
Food System Champion: Urban Farming Institute
The Urban Farming Institute (UFI), located in Roxbury, develops and promotes urban farming as a commercial sector that creates green collar jobs for residents and engages urban communities in building a healthier and more locally based food system. The organization does this through a farmer training program, where students learn general job skills and skills to succeed in green jobs. “If not for the urban farming program, I don’t know what I would be doing,” said one participant in the training program. “This program saved my life.”

Founded in 2012, UFI also acquires and restores small land plots, turning them into productive urban farms. Produce from the farms is sold at local farmers markets and to ten local restaurants. This year, UFI partnered with Commonwealth Kitchen, where the heirloom tomatoes they grew were made into the organization’s own tomato sauce.

UFI has graduated five cohorts of urban farmers, developed the first as-of right-urban farm under Boston’s new zoning amendment and founded and co-sponsored three statewide urban farming conferences. To date, 80% of the graduates of UFI’s training program work in farm and food related businesses in the region; two more farms are in development with a third expected shortly; and the conferences have attracted three hundred participants each year.

Next year, the Urban Farming Institute will have a new headquarters at the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm, a 200 year old farm in Mattapan. Partnering with the Trust for Public Land and other organizations, UFI is transforming this neglected property into a verdant working farm and center for urban agriculture. The center will provide farmer training, public education programs, a farmers market, and a demonstration kitchen.
System-changing Tool: Model Ordinance for Keeping of Livestock
As a result Plan action item calling for “appropriate engagement of municipal boards of agricultural issues [to] reduce unwarranted or unjustified regulations,” and another that recommended the development of “a proposal to improve regulatory oversight of the local food system with respect to public health,” the Collaborative formed the Working Group on Farming and Public Health, which released a set of recommendations early in 2017. One of those recommendations called for the development of model ordinances for farming activities that could serve as a resource for boards of health and farmers around the Commonwealth. The MA Association of Health Boards and Massachusetts Farm Bureau worked together to create the first of these model ordinances, for the keeping of livestock . The document is meant to provide a framework for municipalities to work from when considering ordinances that both protect public health and promote farm sustainability.
Brittany Peats joins Collaborative
Brittany Peats joined the MA Food System Collaborative as the Outreach and Engagement Coordinator on November 1. She is working to support the Collaborative’s projects, and help to connect our work with a broad network of organizations and institutions. Most recently, Brittany was the Director of Programs at Food Link, a food rescue organization in Arlington, MA. She also worked at Project Bread - The Walk for Hunger, the City of Boston’s Office of Food Initiatives, and Tufts University’s ChildObesity180, and was a student intern at the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and Health Care Without Harm. Brittany volunteers as a nutrition instructor with Cooking Matters and coordinates a group of cooks with Community Cooks. She has a Master’s Degree in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition from the Friedman School at Tufts University, a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Boston University, and a BA from Vassar College. She can be reached at .
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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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