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Meet Food Solutions New England

Today we’d like to introduce you to Food Solutions New England.

Please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Food Solutions New England is a regional, collaborative network organized to support the emergence and continued viability of a New England food system that is a resilient driver of healthy food for all, racial equity, sustainable farming and fishing, and thriving communities.

The network is made up of hundreds of people across New England who care about resilient regional food systems—from food access, farm, and fisheries advocacy organizations, academia, state food system networks, philanthropy, and community-based organizations that use food as a lens for community empowerment.

Food Solutions New England was launched in response to a shared sense that greater connectivity was needed across food system efforts and innovations, and began with our inaugural New England Food Summit in 2011. We have been working since then to develop alignment around and strategies to achieve a long-term vision for the food system in New England built upon shared values of racial equity and dignity for all, democratic empowerment, sustainability, and trust.

We’d love to hear more about your network.
Food Solutions New England (FSNE) convenes diverse individuals, organizations, and other networks working across the food system to develop a common agenda around shared vision and values. FSNE cultivates and connects ideas, resources, and leadership that support creative collaborations. FSNE champions the work of those dedicated to food system change in New England and the need for a values-based and aligned collaborative network to realize our long-term goals.

The FSNE network distinguishes itself from other regional food system efforts by actively cultivating thought leadership around guiding vision and values in the regional food system and network leadership by connecting and aligning the region’s nonprofit, philanthropic, private, and public sector actors focused on our food system. While the explicit focus of the FSNE project is food, it is implicitly a cultural project, one aimed at transforming social norms to orient practices toward a more just and sustainable regional food system. This work is inherently experimental and boundary crossing; as such, it requires creative, developmental innovation, and a long view.

FSNE is well known for its New England Food Vision, a collaborative report that considers the future of our region: a future in which food nourishes a social, economic, and environmental landscape that supports a high quality of life for everyone, including generations to come. This bold vision calls for our region to build the capacity to produce at least 50% of our food by 2060 while supporting healthy food for all, racial equity, sustainable farming and fishing, and thriving communities.

FSNE hosted six New England Food Summits, one in each New England state, 2011-2016, which brought together delegates from across New England to strengthen collaboration for regional food system sustainability. These working summits were designed to build upon ongoing efforts across the region to build a more sustainable food system and to consider regional priorities and action items that we can undertake most effectively together.

The FSNE Network Leadership Institute was started in 2016 to cultivate and connect leadership across the regional food system, and to offer leaders the opportunity to build their skills in systems thinking, network and collaborative leadership, and strategies for achieving racial equity.

FSNE adapted the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge to annually offer resources to engage individuals and groups in thinking and talking about race, to normalize the conversation about race and racism in a food systems context.

FSNE pursues projects and activities that are both reflective of our vision and values and responsive to the needs and concerns of the region. As a result, organizations like Farm to Institution New England and Farm Fresh Rhode Island are using A New England Food Vision to guide their work, and networks like Vermont Farm to Plate and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) are incorporating a racial equity commitment. We are now focused on developing strategies that will influence the New England food system toward achieving our vision.

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Image Credit:
Alice Kathryn Richardson

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