By FALPC Intern Jacquelyn Burmeister
On the 15th of October, residents of Worcester County came together in the Saxe Room of the Worcester Public Library to discuss the current challenges and potential innovations for the State of Massachusetts food system. About fifty farmers, businesses, non-profits, residents and students contributed to the MA Food Plan through focus groups addressing food production and processing, transportation, hunger relief and waste management and nutrient recovery.
This “Listening Session” was one of several that the Massachusetts Food Policy Council hosted this month all over the state in order to inform to State’s Food Plan. The Worcester FALPC teamed up with the Pioneer Valley Regional Planning Commission, who had already hosted these sessions in Roxbury and New Bedford. The goal was to receive community input to better craft a document to meet the needs of Massachusetts’ diverse food system and increase the health and affordability of food in the community.
Participants had the opportunity to join intimate group discussions about food topics ranging from seed to plate, touching upon the challenges of current food policy and perception in communities, as well as case studies of successfully implemented innovations in food systems in other states. The MA Food Policy Council had volunteers that took detailed notes of participant input, which it plans on using as suggestions in the final proposal document that is expected to be completed in September of next year. This document will be the first Food Systems Plan that the state will have had since 1975.
The energy in the room was very positive, and sessions ran over-time as people continued to share their personal struggles and potential solutions to current policy and infrastructure. “It was wonderful to be in the room with so many like-minded people who are excited about making positive changes in the current system”, stated one participant in a focus group discussing waste management and nutrient recovery programs.
“Overall, I think it went really well,” says Liz Sheehan-Castro, of Worcester’s Food and Active Living Policy Council, who organized the session.
If you’re interested in learning more about the MA Food Plan, you can read about it here.