The Future of Food in Worcester County

By Alex MacDougall

The Local Foods Movement took root in Worcester at the “Building a Sustainable Worcester: Taking a Regional Food Hub From Vision to Reality” event held at the Hanover Theater Thursday night.

A recent trend towards mindfulness has seen farmers markets and healthy, local dining options popping up all across the city. As great as the progress has been, making Worcester County truly sustainable is something easier said than done.

“There is a possibility for a different type of food system,” said Dr. Thomas H. Kelly, keynote speaker at the event and founding director of the UNH Sustainability Institute. “But it requires building networks that are based on trust.” He also laid out some of the core values of the sustainability project, such as food rights and healthy eating.

Dr. Kelly also called for greater diversity within the sustainability movement, pointing out the importance it has for communities of color.

“Some say it’s important to build the project first and worry about diversity later, but that’s not how it works. We need everyone on board as soon as we can. Who participates really matters,” he said.

Following his speech was a panel led by Tim Murray, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Worcester. Murray sat down with many local leaders of sustainable food movement, such as Lynn Stromberg of the organization Lettuce Be Local, which connects local farmers with restaurants and consumers, and Albert Maykel, the Executive Chef of EVO Dining restaurant in Worcester.

Murray’s team also laid out the 4 key goals to achieve in creating a sustainable food market: universal food access, food economic development, workplace development, and environmental impact.

After the panelists finished discussing, audience members were allowed to ask questions to the panelists. Questions ranged from the costs of sustainability to how to promote farmers markets to the local populace.

When asked about the future of farming, Stromberg stated, “I think it personally starts with education. We need focus not just on urban agriculture, but also the land that’s also being farmed and make sure they keep farming those lands.”

Jesse Rye, a panel member and Co-Executive Director at Farms Fresh Rhode Island, also encouraged people to contact their local congressmen, suggesting that local farming could be recognized as a community service and a form of student loan forgiveness.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to be a part of this movement,” said Murray. “We look forward to the work we have ahead.”

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