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It’s Time for a Statewide Food Systems Plan

Massachusetts is about to embark on a food system strategic planning process. This is welcome news as it will make our state among the frontrunners in recognizing and acting on the critical connections between food, municipal priorities, and the health and economic development of local communities.

Food systems planning means that issues around growing, processing, transporting, preparing, buying, and disposing of food are integrated into policies and plans at all levels of government.

Currently, without a larger food systems plan in place, the state’s many local food councils tasked with addressing food policy concerns end up focusing on individual projects and immediate needs.

Selvin Chambers, The Food Project’s executive director, serves on the advisory board of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council (FPC), which was established in 2010 to find ways to increase access to fresh, healthy food. The food systems strategic planning process is based on recommendations made by the FPC last year.

Our West Cottage Farm in Boston creates proximity.
Our West Cottage Farm in Boston creates proximity.
“If we want to improve local food networks, we need a comprehensive food systems plan that will allow us to work together to address the numerous infrastructure and process issues at play,” said Chambers.  “Ultimately, increasing food access and food security through proximity and sustainability is how we’re going to feed our communities.”

For Massachusetts, some of the questions that will be considered include: How much local food is there? Where is the available farmland? How do farmers know what to grow?

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) will lead the strategic planning process, with the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture as the coordinating agency. Julie Conroy, a senior regional planner for MAPC, has noted that while the budget does not allow for all important factors to be addressed, the process will prioritize consumers, producers, processing, distribution, retail, food access, environment and the workforce as key elements of a food system.

The Food Project is pleased that Massachusetts is taking this important first step towards what we hope will be a series of coordinated efforts across the state. We also hope that the inclusion of food access in the strategic plan will remain a key element as such planning initiatives more forward.


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