Just as the American Planning Association kicks off its November celebrations of food system planning, Massachusetts is celebrating the completion of its draft Local Food Action Plan – a plan that seeks to strengthen Massachusetts local food system – from farm to sea, and from producer to consumer.
The impetus for creating a comprehensive food system plan came from the Massachusetts Food Policy Council (FPC) that recognized the importance of developing a unified vision and coordinated strategy for strengthening the local food system. The FPC named a planning team to lead the nearly two-year planning process. During the planning process nearly 1,500 food system professionals, advocates, and eaters helped identify ways to improve the local food system – including reforming regulations, improving worker conditions and wages, expanding programs that double food dollars for low income individuals, strengthening local food distribution to schools and hospitals, and building markets for lesser known seafood caught in Massachusetts.
Shaped through broadly representative input, the draft Local Food Action Plan now lays out overarching goals to increase the amount of food grown and seafood caught in the state, support jobs and business opportunities in the entire food supply chain, encourage stewardship and sustainable use of land, water and other natural resources important in food production, ensure local foods are available and affordable to Massachusetts resident and consumers, and decrease food waste and turn what food waste is produced into energy and compost to build soils. For each of these goals, the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan spells out in detail how they should be achieved – what actions need to be taken by legislators, state agencies, community organizations, businesses, and residents to reach these goals.
As the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan is finalized, the work will begin to make the vision for a stronger local food system a reality. Taking action to improve the local food system will involve ongoing and expanded collaboration among the committed network of food system advocates, and it will also include reaching across state boundaries, and engaging New England states also working toward food system change.
About the Author. Heidi Stucker is a Food System Planner for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Boston, Massachusetts.
 The planning team that facilitated the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan process included the Metropolitan Area Planning Council as lead, with partners Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Franklin Regional Council of Governments, and the Massachusetts Workforce Alliance.