Legislative Oversight Hearing to Tackle Food Insecurity, Access to Nutritious Food

GREENFIELD — The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health and the Legislature’s Food System Caucus announced they will hold a legislative oversight hearing on the impact of food insecurity and inequitable access to nutritious food on public health. The hearing has been co-developed and supported by 10 regional and statewide organizations.

The event will take place on Friday, Sept. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Cohn Family Dining Common at Greenfield Community College. The hearing will be preceded by a farm tour for legislators and legislative staff at Just Roots in Greenfield. 

This hearing is an opportunity for legislators and community members to learn about how state, federal, and nonprofit programs are working together to improve the health of residents of the Commonwealth.

“New research has shown that poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, with poor diet causing more than half a million deaths per year,” said state Sen. Jo Comerford. “The legislature — and especially the Public Health Committee — must examine the impact of food systems on our Commonwealth’s health and well-being. I’m tremendously grateful that legislators will join experts from across the Commonwealth to grapple with the complex impacts of food security and nutrition.”

Added state Rep. John Mahoney, “receiving access to healthy food options is fundamental for improving the quality of life of the citizens in our Commonwealth. I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to hear from experts in the food-systems field so that we can further improve the health of those in our communities, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on this important and prevalent public-health matter.”

Experts on all aspects of the food system will present on panels discussing topics such as food as medicine, food deserts and healthy food access, the role of agriculture in public health, and school food programing.

“As a co-founder and co-chair of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Food System Caucus, along with Senator Comerford, I am committed to building healthy, vibrant, and strong communities where our residents have reliable access to healthy, local food and our Commonwealth’s agricultural sector and food system thrive,” said state Rep. Hannah Kane. “This hearing is an exciting and critical step in this ongoing effort.”

This hearing presents an opportunity for legislators from across the Commonwealth to examine the impact of food systems on public health as well as the impact food can have on reducing chronic disease and improving population health. The hearing will also inform legislators, as well as the public, about possible policy solutions surrounding food and nutrition in order to shape future legislation and budget priorities.

“Food-system policy works best when all parts of the food system are taken into consideration, like the connections between food access, public health, and agriculture,” said Winton Pitcoff, director of the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative. “We appreciate the committee and caucus holding this hearing to elevate this important discussion.”