State launches comment period on draft food system plan

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State officials on Friday invited the public to submit their feedback on a draft food system plan that Baker administration officials believe will create jobs and grow wages in farming and related industries and increase the production of Massachusetts-grown foods

“The Massachusetts Food System Plan will help the state create policies to increase local food production in Massachusetts, create a vibrant and resilient food economy, protect our environment, and make healthy food accessible for all citizens,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton said in a statement.

[Watch: Food System Plan Announcement]

A Food Day celebration at the State House, on the eve of National Food Day, featured the rollout of the draft plan and the start of a two-week comment period. A law approved in November 2010 created the Massachusetts Food Policy Council.

According to the Baker administration, the new food plan is the first for the Commonwealth since 1974.

“There needs to be the political will,” Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux said when asked by the News Service why more than 40 years have passed since a new food plan has been introduced. “We have a greater part of our population that’s interested in local food, so it all kind of came together at the right time.”

According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, there are 426,000 people employed in the state’s food system – one of every ten jobs – and there were more than 41,000 farms and food businesses in Massachusetts in 2012.

In addition to boosting jobs and homegrown foods, the Baker administration said the other goals of the plan are protecting land and water to ensure food safety and reducing hunger and food waste and increasing the availability of health food to all residents.

[Full Food System Plan: Read]

— Written by Michael Norton and Antonio Caban