BOSTON — As part of the Commonwealth’s celebration of Earth Week, the Baker-Polito Administration awarded $133,950 to support two organizations working to addresses food access and expand economic opportunities through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) Food Ventures Program. The grants will support efforts to increase access to healthy, affordable food options and improve economic opportunities for low to moderate income communities, as well as implement the goals of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan. The announcement was made by MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux during a visit to Just Roots, a program awardee which is working to increase access to healthy local food by connecting people, land, resources and education. On Tuesday, Commissioner Lebeaux also visited the Urban Farming Institute in Mattapan to recognize the environmental justice and urban farming movement taking place in the Boston area.
“The Massachusetts Food Ventures Program has provided pivotal funding for organizations that provide greater access to healthy, affordable food options across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “In these challenging times, our investments provide the leverage local entrepreneurs need to thrive, and we look forward to partnering with these local organizations.”
“Our administration remains committed to supporting local food businesses, which leads to economic opportunities that help grow our local food systems,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “The Food Ventures Program has been a success in providing leverage for economic growth for entrepreneurs, increasing access to food in cities and towns across the Commonwealth, including our Environmental Justice communities.”
MDAR solicited grant proposals, under the Massachusetts Food Venture Program (MFVP), to be funded under the 2014 Massachusetts Five-Year Capital Plan. The MFVP will help implement goals of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan and contribute to the financing needs of local Massachusetts food enterprises. Three grants are being awarded for proposals totaling $133,950. The Project awards will receive funds for capital expenditures such as a refrigerated food truck and infrastructure for a mobile market. The projects will also foster job creation and expansion of food access and distribution in low to moderate income areas.
“Through the investments made by the Baker-Polito Administration, we have been able to create new opportunities for local food production,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The funding awarded today will help local agriculture enterprises thrive and ensure underserved communities have increased access to healthy, fresh food.”
The MFVP provides support to food ventures, sited primarily in or near communities of low or moderate income, including Gateway Cities and rural communities. With expanded investment, completed projects will improve access to Massachusetts grown, harvested or caught food products through the development of collaborations with local agricultural enterprises and private/public entities.
“MDAR’s Food Venture Program increases access to healthy, nutritious, Massachusetts produced food and helps us to implement the goal of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan and increases post-harvest opportunities for farmers,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux.
Key areas for investment for the MFVP include food processing infrastructure to meet the needs of the expanding local food system; improved distribution systems to support opportunities for equitable access to fresh local food; and retail outlet strategies that enhance access to healthy food.
“Just Roots is a model for sustainable community farming and fighting food insecurity,” stated State Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “This Food Ventures grant will allow the farm to distribute more locally grown, healthy produce. This Earth Day, I’m delighted to join colleagues in recognizing and celebrating state investment in the long-term health of Commonwealth farms and the profound impact of this investment on overall food security and public health.”
“A basic human right should be access to healthy and fresh food, free of economic or geographic barriers,” said State Senator Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). “Thank you to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ for recognizing the outstanding and important work Wellspring Harvest does for the Springfield community and Hampden District as a whole. Their mobile market is a huge success and I look forward to seeing their continued growth with the help of this funding.”
“I’d like to thank the Governor and his administration for providing this much needed funding” said State Representative Orlando Ramos (D-Springfield). “Wellspring Harvest has been a huge asset to the community of Indian Orchard, and this will help them to continue doing great work.”
The successful demonstration of these projects has ranged from expanding production space, increased storage for a more robust distribution of local, affordable foods and investments in market opportunities within under-served communities.
|A growing and impactful organization, Just Roots will utilize its grant award for the purchase of a refrigerated vehicle to expand their food distribution and CSA program. Their innovative CSA model has been instrumental in aggregating and distributing thousands of pounds of food in western Massachusetts.
|Wellspring Harvest continues to create greater access to fresh, Massachusetts grown food with their new project. It will use the funding to install and purchase a refrigeration unit for its mobile market. The established “Go Fresh” vehicle has established market stops and will be able to bring even more variety with this infrastructure improvement.
To address food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more resilient local food system, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded $35 million to food banks, nonprofits, schools and food producers as part of the new Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program. The program seeks to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have equitable access to local food, and to better connect farmers, fishermen and other local food producers to a strong, resilient food system to help mitigate future food supply and distribution disruption.
During this year’s Earth Week in Massachusetts, the Baker-Polito Administration is highlighting its commitment to supporting the Commonwealth’s Environmental Justice communities, and ensuring that all residents are protected from environmental pollution can enjoy a clean and healthy environment. During Earth Week, the Administration is holding events throughout the Commonwealth spotlighting important initiatives, including the expansion of tree planting through the Greening the Gateway Cities Program, increasing access to healthy, nutritious food by supporting urban farms, and ensuring clean water by providing grant funding to local municipalities.
On March 26, 2021, Governor Baker signed comprehensive climate change legislation that includes nation-leading provisions related to Environmental Justice. Recognizing the significant impact of climate change on Environmental Justice communities overburdened by poor air quality and disproportionately high levels of pollution, the legislation statutorily defines Environmental Justice and environmental burdens, including climate change as an environmental burden. The legislation also expands Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review to require an Environmental Impact Report for all projects that impact air quality within one mile of an Environmental Justice Neighborhood, and requires the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a stakeholder process to develop a cumulative impact analysis as a condition of permitting certain projects. This change would, for the first time, require the agency to evaluate not just individual project impacts but also historic environmental pollution throughout the community through the permit process.
MDAR’s goal is to increase and sustain the capacity of local food producers and enterprises to provide tangible, measurable benefits to residents in low-moderate income communities which include increased access to healthy fresh food, entrepreneurial opportunities, economic enhancement, and increased access to Massachusetts produced foods.
–Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
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