Bold Region. Big Change. Bright Future. That’s what 450 food system leaders adopted as their motto for the biennial New England Farm to Institution Summit on April 6th and 7th at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Leominster, Mass.
The gathering attracts food service professionals, farmers and fishers, food businesses, clinicians and educators, students, government officials, and nonprofit leaders from around New England and beyond. All are committed to transforming the food system by mobilizing the power of institutions as big buyers, community anchors, and cultural leaders.
Over 60 workshops feature a variety of topics such as a Catch of the Day program for schools and colleges that is a win-win-win for fishermen, consumers, and the sea; strategies for putting local food values into food system contracts; and tips on advocating for farm to institution in your state.
The event focuses on weighty issues in our food system and society. On Friday, April 7th at 9:00 AM, Chellie Pingree, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Maine), a national leader in promoting local food, will share her thoughts on the importance of a strong regional food system that supports farm to institution.
“A few years ago, no one was talking about using locally farmed food for school lunches or thinking about the concept of food as medicine. Today, farmers are in regular contact with school nutrition directors and doctors are reaching out to food banks,” said Pingree. “We’ve certainly come a long way in bringing the local food movement to the institutional level, but there are a number of challenges ahead. I’m thrilled to be able to talk through these issues at the summit and hear new ideas about strengthening the institutional food system."
Abel Luna is one of six storytellers at the conclusion of the summit. An activist with Migrant Justice in Burlington, Vermont, Luna will speak about the challenging conditions of farm workers, many of whom are immigrants. He will highlight the added pressure of recent roundups by federal authorities of immigrant activists, many of whom have been in this country for years.
That theme will also be echoed by keynote speaker Ricardo Salvador, Research Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who is speaking during the opening plenary on Thursday, April 6th at 9:00 AM. His message will focus on how the future of food is the future of our nation.
“The nation’s food system still bears the imprint of its origins as a system for exploiting people and nature. Addressing the root causes of hunger and diet-related chronic disease will require confronting society’s need for greater justice,” said Salvador. “The nation’s history can be understood as a struggle to claim rights denied to all by the nation’s founding documents. Until that struggle is complete, the nation’s fundamental food problems cannot be resolved.”
Jared Auerbach, CEO and founder of Red’s Best, a seafood distribution company, said, “The New England Farm to Institution Summit is not just about talking. It’s about doing… and taking real, concrete steps to change food sourcing within institutional dining.”
The 2017 New England Farm to Institution Summit is organized by Farm to Institution New England in conjunction with co-host organizations: Health Care Without Harm, USDA Farm to School Program, the Northeast Farm to School Steering Committee, and the New England Farm & Sea to Campus Network.
About Farm to Institution New England
Farm to Institution New England (FINE) is a six-state network of nonprofit, public and private entities working together to transform our food system by increasing the amount of good, local food served in our region’s schools, hospitals, colleges and other institutions. FINE’s mission is to mobilize the power of New England institutions to transform our food system. The FINE network consists of non-profit organizations, government agencies, institutions, foundations, farms, food distributors, food processors, food service operators and others. For more information, visit www.farmtoinstitution.org.