Legislators to discuss food insecurity at GCC

  • COMERFORD

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2019 5:35:36 PM

GREENFIELD — Just in time for Hunger Action Month, legislators from across the state will gather at Greenfield Community College on Friday to talk about food insecurity and what needs to be done about it.

The state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health and the Food System Caucus will hold the oversight hearing on the impact of food insecurity and inequitable access to nutritious food on public health in the Cohn Family Dining Common.

The hearing was co-developed and is supported by 10 regional and statewide organizations that will also be there. The hearing will be preceded by a farm tour for legislators and their staff at Just Roots in Greenfield.

Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who will attend, said it will be an opportunity for legislators and community members to learn about how state, federal and nonprofit programs are working together to improve the health of the state’s residents.

“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,” Comerford said. “The Legislature — especially the Public Health Committee — must examine the impact of food systems on our state’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.”

Rep. John Mahoney, from the Worcester District, who will also attend, said receiving access to health food options is fundamental for improving the quality of life of the citizens of Massachusetts.

“I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to hear from experts in the food system 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,” he said.

Experts on all aspects of the state’s 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 programming.

September is Hunger Action Month in the United States, so legislators said they feel this is the perfect time to hold such a hearing — one that presents an opportunity for them to examine the impact of food systems on public health, as well as the impact food can have on reducing chronic disease. It will also inform legislators and the public about possible policy solutions surrounding food and nutrition in an attempt 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,” Director of the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative Winton Pitcoff said. “We appreciate the committee and caucus holding this hearing to elevate this important discussion.”

The public will have the opportunity to watch the hearing via live stream by Greenfield Community College Television. The hearing is free and open to everyone.

Hearing organizers include the Joint Committee on Public Health, the state Food Systems Caucus, Baystate Health, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Greenfield Community College, the state Farm Bureau, the state Food System Collaborative, the state chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Just Roots/Greenfield Community Farm and Cooley Dickinson Health Care.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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