by Christine Smith, Southcoast Food Policy Council Program Manager
Grounded in the research and outcomes of the 2021 Southcoast Food System Assessment, the Southcoast Food Policy Council’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) and its associated working groups (Policy, Food Access, Education and Communication, and Capacity Building) have been diligently working on creating a strategic Plan of Action to guide our short and long-term goals.
Our short-term goals will focus on:
- Identifying and increasing storage and refrigerator spaces for food relief in our region, which includes Bristol, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties. Many of our subsequent priorities ultimately rely on the need for this type of supporting infrastructure.
- Fostering community support for food advocacy and a regional food system through several educational campaigns that stress the importance of buying local, nutritional security, supporting farmers and farmland, understanding the true cost of food, and how this all contributes to a healthier economy, environment, and society.
- Increase fresh, local foods in food pantries and reduce food waste through the creation of a gleaning program for Southeastern, MA.
There are many long-term goals, but for simplicity’s sake, we will highlight the policy campaigns we are following and advocating for:
- Permanent funding of the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) in the budget.
- Standardization of food labeling.
- Increase in wages for people working in the food system.
- Equity in agriculture.
- Conserving farmland from development.
- Permanent funding of the Farm to School program in the budget.
- Support of medically tailored food programs and pre-made food to be covered by SNAP.
- The full SFPC Plan of Action will be released in October. Stay tuned!
September is Hunger Action Month, and we have many projects in the works. On September 21st, from 6-8:30 pm, we will be hosting our annual Food Summit in collaboration with the Office of Senator Mark Montigny and the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement at UMass Dartmouth. The theme of this year’s summit is “The Intersection of Food and Basic Needs: Housing, Healthcare, and Transportation.” The keynote and panelists will share how the basic needs of food, healthcare, housing, and transportation intersect, where barriers exist, and examples of policies and practices that have successfully woven the ability to meet these needs. Here is the zoom link for your calendar. Click here to register.
We are planning for three upcoming Food Equity Focus Groups in Fall River, New Bedford, and Wareham. These focus groups will be an opportunity for people with the lived experience of food insecurity to provide their input into SFPC’s Plan of Action, elevate what has been missed, and hear their solutions to identified problems. Feedback from these sessions will then be incorporated into the Plan of Action accordingly. Focus group participants will have the opportunity to join the SFPC as Food Equity Advisors if they want to stay engaged with our work and continue to be a voice and advocate for their communities.
Lastly, in honor of Hunger Action Month, we will launch a Hunger Action Advocate campaign in September. We will provide several ways you can be an Advocate with your Actions – Stay tuned – more information to follow.