The New England State Food System Planners Partnership is a collaboration among six state-level food system organizations and Food Solutions New England who are mobilizing their networks to impact local and regional food supply chains, and strengthen and grow the New England regional food system. It is this Partnership that spearheads the 10-year initiative to prepare the region for system shocks such as climate-related weather events and public health emergencies.

During the research phase of this project, two research areas focused on understanding the capacity of the New England food system to produce more food for local consumption.

The sixteen researchers taking part in the 30% by 2030 New England Feeding New England foundational research explored opportunities and needs along the food supply chain, from the land and sea and labor needed to produce food, to how it will be distributed, to what consumers will buy. The research also serves to quantify the scale of the regional food economy, including the number of jobs, businesses, and economic impact. The research established a 2020 baseline of our current state of production and consumption and developed two 2030 scenarios – an “Unchanged Eating” scenario whereby we eat in 2030 the way we eat in 2020, but adjusted for population growth; and a “Resilient Eating” scenario whereby we eat closer to USDA Dietary Guidelines. Both scenarios estimate the number of acres needed in agricultural production to meet our 2030 goal and examine issues related to a viable fisheries and seafood industry in the region.

Working in collaboration with researchers at Vermont Law School, the Food System Resilience Assessment Toolkit was created for use by municipal and regional planners, community organizations, and other food system advocates to plan and prepare for food system disruptions within a broader resilience framework.

New England Feeding New England Research 

What would it take for 30% of the food consumed in New England to be regionally produced by 2030?

The New England State Food System Planners Partnership convened sixteen researchers who worked together over 18-months to produce this foundational research report.

Research Findings

1. New England has the capacity, ability, and ingenuity to create a food system that is more self-reliant. The current system presents several barriers to doing so.

Everyone has a role to play. Currently, food producers in the region do not produce enough to meet the 30% by 2030 goal. Too much of our regional food system is caught up in a concentrated, global food system model that is vulnerable to real threats like climate change, public health emergencies, and supply chain disruptions. It is challenging for new and beginning farmers, fishers and food entrepreneurs to get started. We are looking to retail grocers in the region to open up their shelves, cooler and freezer space to more regional food producers. 

  • If we control more of our food supply, we can protect our land – a finite resource – and ensure that more of it is used for agricultural production.
  • If our food supply chains become decentralized and less reliant on large, global food suppliers that saturate markets, more New England businesses will have the ability to access the marketplace.
  • If more fresh and nutritious food consumed in New England were produced, harvested, and caught in New England, consumers would have greater opportunity for a more resilient, healthy diet with more access to local food.
  • If more New Englanders consumed local foods, this would serve as an investment in local and regional businesses, diversify the supply chains that serve the region, and increase consumers’ access to fresher products closer to home.

2. In order to create a more self-reliant food system, food system development entities must work collaboratively to identify policies and investments that support public and private supply chain businesses and infrastructure.

Producers must sell more local food to local markets. Local food must be more accessible. Local and regional food supply chains must be rebuilt. We must invest in our regional infrastructure – warehouses, processing facilities, transportation, and other critical links – to support a shift to a more self-reliant system. Federal and state policies must align with the goal of producing and distributing more food within our region. Small- and medium-sized producers must be strengthened so they aren’t crowded out by giant food conglomerates. With a growing and diverse population, new and beginning farm, fisher and food business owners, especially BIPOC, need access to affordable capital, land and landings. And activities on each of these levels must be coordinated and aligned in ways that build the competitiveness of New England-based producers, harvesters and supply chain businesses.

  • If infrastructure is strengthened, more of what is grown, raised and caught in New England will stay in New England.
  • If federal, state, and local policies worked together to strengthen the region’s own food system, farmers and fishers would be stronger, supply chains would be more reliable, and the market would be more competitive.”
  • If the scale of production and processing are better matched and coordinated, both producers and processors will be more financially viable and resilient.

3. Building a more resilient, strong regional food system would mean more jobs, a healthier populace, and greater stability of our economy, workforce, and supply chains.

The economic contribution of New England’s food system is significant, accounting for more than 10% of all jobs and $190 billion in sales. However, agricultural and seafood employment have been essentially flat and sales were down in recent years. Most New Englanders appreciate and value the community of people working together to catch, raise, and grow food across the region. But, we need to be concerned about the future of regional agriculture and fisheries: farmers, farmworkers, and fishermen are crucial but undersupported. Without their expertise, and a pipeline of new and diverse farmers, farmworkers, and fishermen, opportunities for healthy, reliable regional food systems are drastically decreased.

  • If more food consumed in New England were produced in New England, more of what we all spend on food for our families will be retained in our region, supporting local jobs, local businesses, and our local communities.
  • If food supply chains are shortened, farmers will be able to capture more of the value of what they raise, making them more profitable and keeping them sustainable.
  • If local producers and processors are able to thrive financially, they will be able to provide better paying jobs and local economic benefits.
  • If workers had the knowledge and skills to withstand changes in our food supply and markets, our food system would be stronger and more resilient.

To read the foundational research, CLICK HERE.

Resilience Assessment

Food Systems Resilience Assessment Tool

Food supply chains are composed of private and public entities and infrastructure that must be coordinated to deliver food from farm and sea to our plates. Road conditions, weather events, tax and economic policies, pandemics and a range of other factors can influence the stability of food supply chains. By ensuring that a portion of the food consumed in New England is produced and distributed by locally-based entities, we can help offset impacts from disruptions to national and global food supply chains.

Development of a Food Systems Resilience Assessment Tool was launched in 2021 to provide information on conditions impacting local and regional food supply chains. By understanding these conditions, economic and community development goals that support food resiliency can be more easily integrated into government and quasi-government planning processes.

The assessment tool builds off previous work on food systems resilience by the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at the Vermont Law School. The tool introduces the topics of food systems resilience, food and nutrition security, and equity in food systems resilience. It then suggests some first steps for conducting an assessment, including defining an assessment area and gathering an assessment team. 

Tool Overview

  • Three modules guide information gathering from communities on food availability, food accessibility and food utilization. 
  • Each module has guided questions, suggestions for resources, and community contacts. 
  • A companion excel tool provides assessment questions that can be adapted by communities to fit their individual needs. 

In coordination with CAFS, the Partnership convened input sessions with planners working in community and economic development to provide suggestions for the tool. CAFS is also developing an inventory of policy strategies and a decision framework to help planners and communities consider policy options for supporting food systems resilience.

Both the modules and excel tool of these resources are still currently in a draft stage.