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Food System Assessment

The 2021 Southcoast Food System Assessment

The Marion Institute’s (MI) Southcoast Food Policy Council (SFPC), consists of nearly 300 community partners that represent farmers, fishers, food pantries, churches, social service agencies, schools, institutional buyers, and a diverse group of partner organizations throughout the Southcoast of Massachusetts, representing Fall River to Wareham. The mission of the SFPC is to connect, convene, and advocate for local food producers, consumers, and community partners who seek to generate policies and practices that strengthen our regional food system, enhance food security, and promote health equity.

In 2014, the Island Foundation was commissioned to create a food assessment study of Bristol, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties, using data from the 2007 and 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture. This innovative study provided the first comprehensive report of food conditions and systems in these counties.

In early 2020, the Marion Institute brought the Southcoast Food Policy Council onboard as one of our core programs. Because of the importance of such an assessment for identifying strengths and weaknesses in our regional food system and how this information provides a critical lens for future planning and decision-making, the MI commissioned an updated and expanded Food System Assessment for Southeastern MA from Northbound Ventures Consulting.

Our objectives were to:

  1. Provide an updated landscape of the region’s food system assets, incorporating broader primary research and food economy perspective.
  2. Share progress since the 2014 assessment and current challenges.
  3. Identify intervention points where policy can support an equitable and sustainable food system for all in the region.
  4. Help raise awareness of Southeastern Massachusetts’ context for contributing to statewide and New England food system planning work.

A strength of the new assessment is the incorporation of stakeholder interviews and community surveys that add depth and local context to the report’s findings. It is necessary to acknowledge that this assessment has taken place almost entirely in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has undoubtedly influenced recent data points and survey results referenced. This has made for highly dynamic research, and we cannot be sure of the long-term impacts of COVID on supply chains, food insecurity, the labor market, and more. Readers are asked to keep this unique context in mind as they use this report for planning, community advocacy, and public policy decision-making.

The 2021 Food System Assessment Report will provide a clear path for the SFPC and its Community Advisory Board (CAB) to create a food system action plan for the Southcoast region. It will also provide a baseline for measuring progress in achieving the goals of the SFPC going forth.

If your organization is interested in the 2021 Southcoast Food System Presentation, contact

Download the full Assessment, Digest, PDF Presentation, or Infographic below.

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