Highlights from the Network—Sixth Annual New England Food Summit
The New England Food Summit, organized by Food Solutions New England (FSNE), which is supported by the UNH Sustainability Institute, was held June 8th and 9th at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Fifteen delegates from multiple areas of the NH food system attended the summit, hearing success stories from several organizations in the region, collaborating on how to achieve the “50 by 60” New England Food Vision, and networking with delegates from other states.
The first day of the Summit kicked off with an introduction from Senator Marilyn Moore, of Connecticut, who spoke about the vast increase in “real diversity” from the time of the first Summit she attended in Vermont, when she said, “I walked out of the room just overwhelmed with whiteness.”
FSNE heard the early concerns about inclusion and has made real efforts to make sure that all populations involved in the local food system have a place at the table when it comes to making decisions. At this year’s summit, nearly 200 people were in attendance, from all six states in New England (NH, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). The crowd was a diverse mix of genders, ages, races, abilities, and socioeconomic groups, including farmers, food chain workers, researchers, nonprofit organizers, and funders, among many other participants in the local food system. Spanish translators were in attendance for those who required them, and several of the attendees were fasting for Ramadan during the Summit.
Tom Kelly, founder of the UNH Sustainability Institute, revealed a visual depiction of the New England Food Vision, an illustrated graphic showing the pathway forward to a sustainable food system that is able to supply 50% of the region’s food by the year 2060. In order to achieve “A New England Food System with Dignity,” three points must be leveraged: 1) Democratic Empowerment, 2) A New Food Story, and 3) A Sustainable Economy. These leverage points will be reached by a series of 4 steps, including inspiring others with knowledge and stories, mobilizing people, cultivating leaders, and making the business case for the vision. According to Kelly, “The road to food justice isn’t linear, and we each have a part to play.”
The second day of the Summit focused on policy—what it is, why it is important, and successful examples of policy interventions from throughout the region. According to Martha Page of Hartford Food System, “Policy work is the key to sustaining change.”
Participants had two opportunities during the Summit to attend one of ten breakout sessions. Topics included Environmental Nutrition, Worker Justice, a Food Policy Clinic, Understanding the Farm to Institution Market, Expanding Nutrition Incentives, Food Waste, and even a chance to get up and move during “Out of the Gym and Into the Streets: Black Feminist Fitness."
Each state met as a group to discuss specific next steps toward achieving the New England Food Vision in their own states, and then reported back to the larger group. Most states recognized the good work that is already being done, and came up with specific ways their states could help achieve the vision. The general consensus among states was that organization, communication, and collaboration to leverage existing networks are critical to increasing the amount of local food produced in the region.
Over the course of the Summit, participants were fed local and sustainable breakfasts, lunches, and snacks catered by D&B Catering. A dinner of Island Fusion cuisine was catered by Dorothy Brown Catering, in collaboration with Chef Pierre Desruisseaux of Metric Bar and Grill in Bridgeport, CT. Efforts were made to reduce food waste throughout the Summit.
Photo Credits: Kaitlin Haskins, Farm to Institution New England (FINE)