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Food System Assessment

2020 Southcoast Food System Assessment Update

As a first priority in 2020, the SFPC is updating the 2014 Food System Assessment (FSA) in an effort to evaluate accomplishments and new programs put in place since the last assessment; to update and evaluate statistics/data; and to identify gaps that can be filled with policy change and/or programming.

We have engaged Holly Fowler from Northbound Ventures Consulting to assist the member organizations of the Southcoast Food Policy Council to produce an updated regional food system assessment and food hub feasibility. Northbound Ventures is a sustainable communities and food system consultancy founded in 2013 and based in Montpelier, Vermont. Co-founders Holly Fowler and Scott Richardson have extensive project experience across New England, throughout Massachusetts, and in New Bedford specifically.

The updated Food System Assessment will provide an opportunity to measure the impact of the community’s collective work toward decreasing food insecurity and provide an updated baseline identifying new and ongoing gaps in services and policy, from which to continue measuring community impact. It will also provide a clearer path forward for our food policy council, providing us with next policy initiative(s) in 2020.

This study cannot be done without our core Food Policy Council members. Research will rely on primary data collection, secondary data collection, focus groups, surveys, and interviews to validate or augment existing information. Active surveys will be posted on the SFPC homepage. Please check back for updates and sign up to receive SFPC news by clicking here.



This FSA is based on existing data, reports, articles, and a survey of farmers and consumers conducted by Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP).  Much of the data comes from the 2007 and 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture (the most recent years available), the 2010 U.S. Census and subsequent American Community Survey years, and the USDA’s Food Environment Atlas (data from varying years up to 2013). The USDA Census of Agriculture is a five-year snapshot of farming and its accuracy is impacted by an estimated 80% return by farmers, by weather variability across the nation and by economic cycles. Nonetheless, it is the most comprehensive resource available for agricultural production data on a county level.

This report is intended to be an initial broad assessment of available data, the subcommittee did not conduct interviews with food system stakeholders. Such interviews would allow for a more nuanced view of food system gaps, barriers, and needs that will inform the Network’s future work.

The Assessment covers Bristol, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties, with some special focus on the cities of New Bedford and Fall River. The choice of this geographic range, Bristol, Norfolk and Plymouth counties, was based on the goal of examining the possibility for increased production of local food—we wanted to explore the agricultural production potential of a wider Southeastern Massachusetts region. Using county-level data also allows for the most direct comparison between food production and food access data.

Download the full Assessment, Infographic, and Executive Summary below.

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