The Food System Assessment (FSA) subcommittee and the Network as a whole have been guided since the Network’s inception by the concept of community food security.
This FSA is based on existing data, reports, articles, and a survey of farmers and consumers conducted by Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP). Much of the data comes from the 2007 and 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture (the most recent years available), the 2010 U.S. Census and subsequent American Community Survey years, and the USDA’s Food Environment Atlas (data from varying years up to 2013). The USDA Census of Agriculture is a five-year snapshot of farming and its accuracy is impacted by an estimated 80% return by farmers, by weather variability across the nation and by economic cycles. Nonetheless, it is the most comprehensive resource available for agricultural production data on a county level.
This report is intended to be an initial broad assessment of available data, the subcommittee did not conduct interviews with food system stakeholders. Such interviews would allow for a more nuanced view of food system gaps, barriers, and needs that will inform the Network’s future work.
The Assessment covers Bristol, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties, with some special focus on the cities of New Bedford and Fall River. The choice of this geographic range, Bristol, Norfolk and Plymouth counties, was based on the goal of examining the possibility for increased production of local food—we wanted to explore the agricultural production potential of a wider Southeastern Massachusetts region. Using county-level data also allows for the most direct comparison between food production and food access data.