New England Food Vision

A New England Food Vision is a multi-phase project to develop a regional food vision: a bold vision that calls for our region to build the capacity to produce at least 50% of clean, fair, just and accessible food for all New Englanders by 2060.

The vision includes a set of guiding assumptions and calculations that sketch a future in which diverse local and state food systems are supported by and in turn support a regional sustainable food system. 

Read the June 4, 2013 draft of "A New England Food Vision"

 

Update on New England Food Vision project: May 2013

Since August, the authors have continued to refine the calculations behind our vision, draft language for the text of the report, and incorporate some initial feedback.

The authors have outlined three separate food system scenarios for the year 2060, each of which involves expanding acreage devoted to food production in New England:

(1) Business as Usual: If we continue to eat the way we do currently---a food pattern high in animal products (especially beef), fat and sugar, but low in vegetables, fruits and whole grains---- Saturated fat and refined sugar exceed suggested guidelines, while fiber intake remains well below recommendations.. We estimate that 35-40% of our food needs could be produced in New England This is with an expansion of farmland from 2 million to 6 million acres.

(2) Omnivore’s Delight: This scenario is based on a food pattern that meets the USDA’s and Harvard’s Healthy Eating Guidelines. Individuals are able to meet protein and calorie  requirements, and they enjoy a positive increase in fiber intake.This means the pattern includes more fruits and vegetables, and less meat, sugar , saturated fat and highly processed foods .  This scenario encompasses conditions in which citizens choose greater reliance on regional assets to retain more wealth in New England, help to rebuild our rural communities and promote more rural/urban connections.  We estimate that it would be possible to produce 50% of this healthier diet in New England, again using 6 million acres and assuming a recovery of the Gulf of Maine fishery

(3) Regional Reliance: We imagine a scenario in which environmental, economic or political instability makes it much more difficult and costly to import food over long distances, and forces us to still further concentrate food production and regional reliance in New England. Individuals are able to meet protein needs by relying more on plant based legumes and nuts than in the Business as Usual and Omnivore’s Delight plans, and given the emphasis on plant based foods, fiber intake is well above the Business As Usual plan. The percent calorie distribution from fats, protein and carbohydrates falls within suggested ranges. We could expand farmland further to 7 million acres, while still keeping 70% of the landscape in forest. The food consumption pattern shifts by reducing meat even further and increasing legumes and nuts. In this scenario, we could produce up to 70% of our diet regionally, with grains as the primary import from other regions.

The authors envision a food system based on food as a human right. Our current patchwork of public and private systems for addressing hunger and food insecurity are inadequate; far too many in our region---especially children---have insufficient access to healthy food. Any truly sustainable changes to the food system must include measures to ensure that everyone in our communities has access at all times to adequate, sufficient and culturally-appropriate food. We lay out the basic characteristics of a rights-based food system, including the right to food and livable wages through food system work; but we leave the specific policies to be enacted to individual states and municipalities, since the vision is not meant to be prescriptive, but is meant to inspire further discussion, innovation, research and education that will improve our collective ability to produce healthy food for the region.

Moving forward, the authors are working to complete a more in-depth nutritional analyses of the food patterns in each scenario and adjusting our calculations accordingly. We also will conduct an analysis of the potential economic impact of each scenario. We aim to release a draft to delegates by the end of May and are eager to receive feedback from Food Summit delegates when the draft is available.  We anticipate refining the draft during the summer, and releasing the final professionally edited version with color photos and figures in the fall of 2013.