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Public Policy

Transforming our regional food system cannot be done through individual efforts alone; we need to work together with a common agenda and vision of the future.

Public policy is one way in which our common agenda and vision of the future can become manifest in the laws, rules, and practices that shape our everyday lives and decision-making. This page will regularly spotlight important public policy issues and resources.

Featured Resource

The second edition of Good Laws, Good Food: Putting Local Food Policy to Work for Our Communities, a toolkit for advocates working at the local level, from  the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, has eight sections covering the general legal setting surrounding food policy, local food infrastructure, land use planning and regulation, urban agriculture, consumer access and demand, and school food and nutrition education. Read more


The Healthy Food Policy Project (HFPP) identifies and elevates local laws that seek to promote access to healthy food, and also contribute to strong local economies, an improved environment, and health equity, with a focus on socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups. The HFPP is a four-year collaboration of Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, the Public Health Law Center, and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)’s comprehensive 2018 Farm Bill policy platform, An Agenda for the 2018 Farm Bill. NSAC’s Farm Bill priorities include:

  • Increasing Farming Opportunity: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
  • Advancing Land Stewardship: Comprehensive Conservation Title Reform
  • Investing in Growing Regional Food Economies: New Markets and Jobs
  • Securing Seeds for the Future: Public Plant Breeding Research & Development
  • Aligning Risk Management, Conservation and Family Farming: Crop Insurance Modernization

In addition, NSAC will advocate for 2018 Farm Bill provisions that will:

  • Advance racial equity in the food and farm system
  • Reverse the trend of rapid consolidation and vertical integration in agriculture
  • Increase access to healthy food, particularly for vulnerable children
  • Close commodity subsidy loopholes and includes reasonable subsidy limits.
  • Focus farm loan programs on family-sized farms and historic target constituencies, including beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers
  • Reaffirm USDA’s Rural Development Mission Area and creates new rural business investment opportunities
  • Scale up funding for sustainable agriculture and organic research, education, and extension
  • Focus renewable energy programs on solar, wind, and perennial-based biofuels

PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and Reinvestment Fund have launched a newly designed Healthy Food Access Portal featuring content for policy advocates, food system entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders.

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Food and Agriculture Policy Recommendations includes recommendations for the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress. 

The 2016 National Food Policy Scorecard from Food Policy Action (FPA) allows you to enter your zip code to see if your local legislator voted to keep your food safe, healthy, and affordable. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition explains that "FPA scores Congress members across a range of food-related legislation, covering issues including but not limited to: animal welfare; nutrition programs including farm-to-school and SNAP; farm labor; organic farming; and environmentally sound farm production."

New England Highlights

Senators’ scores were based on 10 votes and 12 bills. Among Senators, only received perfect scores: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was one of them. Eighteen other Senators, however, received scores of 90 or above, including from New England: Christopher S Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), John F Reed (D-RI), and Patrick J Leahy (D-VT).

House Representatives’ scores were based on 16 votes and 15 bills. Overall, there were 78 Representatives with perfect scores with 9 of them on the House Committee on Appropriations and 2 on the House Committee on Agriculture. House appropriators with perfect scores included: Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1). Jim McGovern (D-MA-2) was one of only 2 Agriculture Committee members with scores of 100. Other New England Representatives with 100%: Elizabeth H Esty (D-CT-5), John B Larson (D-CT-1), Michael E Capuano (D-MA-7), Katherine M Clark (D-MA-5), Niki S Tsongas (D-MA-3), David N Cicilline (D-RI-1), and James R Langevin (D-RI-2). There were also 7 New England Representatives with scores of 90 or above. 

Join the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance’s “revol-ocean” and raise your voice for healthier marine ecosystems and social, environmental, economic, and food system justice for communities who depend on fisheries for their livelihoods and those who eat seafood. Get hooked into regional, national, and international policy actions

The Movement for Black Lives, a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country, released a policy agenda, A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, & Justice · Una Visión para las Vidas Negras. SIGN ON and follow #Vision4BlackLives.

Our food system is out of balance, and it’s time to take action.

Current food policies prioritize corporate interests at the expense of our health, the environment, and working families. Join the Plate of the Union campaign to call on the next President to take bold steps to fix our food system, building one that keeps farmers on the land and rewards them for farming practices that protect our environment, provides dignity and fair wages to workers, and ensures that all Americans have access to healthy food that they can afford.

The Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) was developed by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council to "provide clear standards and strategic support to empower major institutions to procure local, sustainable, fair and humanely produced foods, while improving access to healthy, high-quality food for all communities. GFPP is a commitment by food service institutions to improve their regional food system by implementing meaningful purchasing standards in five key value categories: (1) local economies, (2) environmental sustainability, (3) valued workforce, (4) animal welfare, and (5) nutrition." Read Anna Lappe's op-ed about this powerful tool, a "procurement policy that helps put core values at the center of school food purchasing," and the impending vote in San Francisco.

In a report examining the US Farm Bill—the cornerstone of food and agricultural legislation since its inception in 1933—UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society finds that corporate control and structural racialization within the US food system leaves marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by the agricultural policies and outcomes generated by the Farm Bill. The companion research brief Facts and Findings summarizes the main findings and solutions that are found in the full report.

Feeding America has important information on Child Nutrition Reauthorization and links to contact your members of Congress to help to make sure that the full Senate and House passes a strong bill in 2016.

Exploring Stories of Innovationa series of short articles from Growing Food Connections that explore how local governments from across the United States are strengthening their community’s food system through planning and policy. These include: City of Burlington and Chittenden County, Vermont.

Sam Kass, a former White House chef, says, “[food] is the missing ingredient in the climate change fight” and “smart food policy and can help us reduce emissions and eliminate waste.” He highlights the Food Recovery Act introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME) aimed at reducing food waste at the consumer level, in grocery stores and restaurants, in schools and other institutions, and on the farm.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT) and the members of the House Hunger Caucus have worked with national anti-hunger organizations to prepare The 114th Congress Guide To Hunger And Federal Nutrition Programs. This resource serves to help people understand hunger and food insecurity, as well as the federal safety net programs currently in place to help.

News from Rhode Island: Governor Raimondo announces that a statewide food and agricultural plan is in the works with agencies focused on economics and the environment. The Rhode Island Food Policy Council supports the effort.

The Center for Livable Future’s Food Policy Networks project supports the development of effective and robust food policy at the state and local levels by working with existing food policy councils, national organizations, and other interested groups. Check out their directory, reports, webinars, and other resources.

GMO Labeling and the DARK Act: Deny Americans the Right to Know

The DARK Act would bar states from enacting laws to require GMO labeling, block state laws prohibiting “natural” on advertising and labels of GMO foods, and make it virtually impossible for U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set up a mandatory national GMO labeling system. Three states have enacted laws that require food makers to label products that contain GMO ingredients.  All food sold in Vermont that contains GMO ingredients will need to be labeled by July 1, 2016; the labeling laws in Connecticut and Maine are scheduled to go into effect when other northeastern states pass similar legislation.  Industry lobbying has dwarfed that of GMO labeling advocates.

Learn more about the bill from the Environmental Working Group and take action.

Farm to School Act of 2015: Supporting healthy kids, healthy farms and healthy communities. Farm to school is a common sense approach to child nutrition that empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.  We are calling on Congress to support continued farm to school success and innovation in the upcoming  Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, by expanding the program’s scope and by providing additional funding. Learn more about the bill, the benefits, and take action with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Farm to School Network.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secret deal in the works between the US and 11 Pacific Rim countries. It stands to impact 40% of the global economy, and threatens the health of our food system, our communities, our environment, and our local economies- and is being negotiated behind closed doors in collaboration with multinational corporations. Learn more about the TPP and Tell Congress to Say NO to Fast-Tracking Secret Trade Deals.

Tell Our National Leaders: “Healthy Food Comes From a Sustainable Food System!" Raise your voice in support of recommendations linking healthy food and a healthy planet by submitting a comment to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The Food Research Action Committee (FRAC) urges action NOW to oppose budget proposals to cut SNAP. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), says, “This is real. This is not a false alarm.” Learn more and sign the petition on FRAC's website. 

The Food and Agriculture Policy Collaborative's report, Building Healthy Communities: this guide provides information on policies and programs that increase access to SNAP benefits, build and improve healthy food stores, and strengthen supply chains between farmers and consumers.

Learn about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)'s Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule and how to comment at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s FSMA Action Center  

Check out the New England Food Policy report and series of related webinars and other events.