Download the full report: Increasing Local Food Procurement by Massachusetts State Colleges and Universities
Download the executive summary: Increasing Local Food Procurement By Massachusetts State Colleges and Universities – Executive Summary
The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic is pleased to release a report examining local food procurement efforts by Massachusetts institutions of higher education in light of Massachusetts’ local agricultural products preference law.
In recent years there has been an increasing interest in local food consumption, and many states have enacted legislation to promote the use of food grown within the state, often with the goals of promoting local economic development and increasing access to fresh, healthy foods. In 2010, Massachusetts amended Chapter 7, Section 23B of its General Laws to require state colleges and universities, as well as state agencies, to prefer foods grown or produced within the state over other foods in their procurement processes. While the law instructs state agencies to prefer in-state foods so long as they are less than 10% more expensive than comparable out-of-state foods, state colleges and universities are not subject to this standard. Instead, institutions of higher education must make “reasonable efforts” to prefer in-state foods.
At the request of the Massachusetts Food Policy Alliance (MFPA) and Massachusetts Farm to School Project (a member organization of MFPA), we conducted an investigation of Section 23B’s impact on state colleges and universities. Our aim was to determine whether colleges and universities have increased procurement of local foods in response to this law, and more broadly, to analyze the barriers that hinder, as well as opportunities that enhance, efforts to increase the use of local foods in these dining halls.
Our project reviewed the Massachusetts law and its history, conducted interviews with diverse stakeholders involved in college and university dining in Massachusetts, and researched other states’ local procurement laws. This report details our findings, describes the main barriers to local food procurement by colleges and universities, and identifies some best practices and inspirational local procurement successes. We conclude with recommendations for advocates such as the MFPA and the Mass Farm to School Project to increase local procurement by state institutions of higher education, either by working within the existing legal framework or by encouraging future legislative change. While some colleges and universities in Massachusetts have taken significant steps toward purchasing more local foods, many others have not. Section 23B has the potential to significantly increase local food procurement in college and university dining halls, but its success depends upon the participation of students, farmers, and local food advocates who are passionate about instituting change.
The MFPA, a group of more than thirty organizations whose mission is “to bring together diverse stakeholders across the food system, from farmers to consumers, to create a sustainable, systemic, effective, and inclusive food policy for Massachusetts,” considers increasing local food in university dining halls one of their main priorities. The Massachusetts Farm to School Project is a grassroots initiative that works to facilitate sustainable purchasing relationships between farms and institutions statewide to support the local agricultural economy and improve access to healthy food for all.