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by Christine Smith, Southcoast Food Policy Council Program Manager

On September 21st, the Southcoast Food Policy Council hosted the 2022 Food Summit in partnership with The Office of Senator Mark Montigny and the UMass Dartmouth Leduc Center for Civic Engagement. This year’s theme was: The Intersection of Food and Basic Needs: Healthcare, Housing, and Transportation.

Audra Riding from Senator Mark Montigny’s office, Christine Connelly from New Bedford Mayor John Mitchell’s office, and Elaina Pevide from Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan’s office provided opening remarks and set the tone of the evening by highlighting the important role the Southcoast plays in building a regional food system that is equitable and inclusive to all members of our communities.

We were honored to have Brandy Brooks, C.E.O. of Radical Solutions L.L.C., as our fabulous keynote speaker. Brandy has held roles at the Community Design Resource Center of Boston, The Food Project, the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, Dreaming Out Loud, and One Square World. Brandy’s words resonated with us as she offered the following sentiment, “We are nomads, and follow the food and build towns around how we get our food and water. We derive medicine from food and create spiritual practices and cultural norms around food in every aspect of our life. We forget that food is how we embody our relationships and what we believe in the world. When we talk about housing and transportation, we see the ways we have been segregated, and it is reflected in who has food access and the quality of the food. So you have to think about food inter-sectionally.”

Following our keynote speaker, we had a panel of subject-matter experts representing the sectors of food, healthcare, housing, and transportation. The panel was facilitated by Gina Plata- Nino, an attorney from Mass Law Reform Institute, who did an outstanding job leading our panelists through a series of questions with humor and grace. Our panel included the following rock stars:

  • Alexis Walls, Assistance Campaign Director from Massachusetts Public Health Association, shared, “We need ownership over the political processes and the right people being at the table. Advocacy around social determinants of health is a holistic approach to stabilizing communities. This is a good way to speak to policymakers.”
  • Josh Amaral, Assistant Director of P.A.C.E. in New Bedford, shared, “We want to buy people time to ensure no one is left behind in economic opportunities, such as the offshore wind economy. We think developing housing across income levels would benefit us all.”
  • Damon Chaplin, Director of the New Bedford Department of Health, shared, “We want to make New Bedford a walkable city, with more agriculture and access to land, more rooftop gardens- to help people live healthier lives with fewer diseases.”
  • Erik Rousseau, Administrator of the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, shared, “There is a lack of focus on transportation to support our community adequately. It is 50 years of our service eroding with no increase toward maintaining services. We need more attention on transportation.”

If you missed it live, you can still view the recording below.

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