Posted April 27, 2017
2017 New England Farm to Institution Summit Report
Bold Region. Big Change. Bright Future. That’s what 444 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, Massachusetts.
The gathering attracted food service professionals, farmers and fishers, food businesses, clinicians and educators, students, government officials, and nonprofit leaders from around New England and beyond. All of whom are committed to transforming the food system by mobilizing the power of institutions as big buyers, community anchors, and cultural leaders.
Over 60 workshops featured 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.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (far left) poses for a photo with fellow Maine farm to institution advocates at the 2017 New England Farm to Institution Summit in Leominster, Massachusetts on April 5-7.
The 2017 New England Farm to Institution Summit focused on weighty issues in our food system and society. On Friday, April 7th, Chellie Pingree, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Maine), a national leader in promoting local food, shared 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 was one of six storytellers to speak at the conclusion of the summit. An activist with Migrant Justice in Burlington, Vermont, Luna spoke about the challenging conditions of farm workers, many of whom are immigrants. He highlighted the added pressure of recent roundups by federal authorities of immigrant activists, many of whom have been in this country for years.
Ricardo Salvador from the Union of Concerned Scientists provided the keynote address on April 6th at the 2017 New England Farm to Institution Summit in Leominster, Massachusetts.
That theme was echoed by keynote speaker Ricardo Salvador, Research Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who spoke during the opening plenary on Thursday, April 6th. His message focused 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.”
Zoe Croft from GrandyOats in Maine (at right) speaks with an attendee in the exhibitor fair at the 2017 New England Farm to Institution Summit in Leominster, Massachusetts on April 5-7.
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 was 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.
The 2017 New England Farm to Institution Summit steering committee posed for a test shot in the photo booth.
You can watch videos of all three plenaries on FINE's Facebook page.
Audio-only recordings of the six live stories from the closing plenary are available for your listening pleasure.
Glenda Neff from Farm to Institution New York State discusses state-level food policy on April 6th at the 2017 New England Farm to Institution Summit in Leominster, Massachusetts.
In our post-conference evaluation survey, we asked attendees for quotes. Here are a few of our favorites:
"It's events like the FINE Summit that help small farmers like me meet big institutions and grow our businesses together to ultimately provide healthy delicious food for our local communities!"
– Emily Sharood, Mousam Valley Mushrooms
"Exceptional conference on food issues with much-needed emphasis on social justice and equity. The storytellers were all mesmerizing..."
– Arlene Lieberman, The Education Alliance
"I am going to be serving more local and sustainable fish as I am inspired by Red's Best's vision and chef Jenny's amazing attitude about her job."
– Jacqueline Morgan, Milton Public Schools
"As a student interested in sustainable food production, I left the summit with way more knowledge than I expected and a renewed enthusiasm for learning different ways to implement changes in my university."
– Currenn Mackie-Malcolm, University of Maine
"Ricardo Salvador's keynote was an inspiring and energizing call to action in these difficult times."
– Anonymous attendee