Food Asset Map for Nantucket


Sponsors: Food Rescue Nantucket,
Nantucket Food Pantry,
Sustainable Nantucket

Jonathan, Rachel, Katelyn, Mikala

Jonathan, Rachel, Katelyn, Mikala

Sponsor Liaisons: Anne Marie Bellavance, Gary Langley, Yeshe Palmo
Student Team: Katelyn Burke, Mikala Dunbar, Jonathan Jironvil, Rachel Lia
Abstract: Nantucket’s sustainability movement is partially sparked by the large amount of food imported to feed its fluctuating population, caused by summer tourism. The goal of this project was to develop an interactive food asset map and database for Sustainable Nantucket, Nantucket Food Pantry, and Food Rescue Nantucket to identify areas to expand food production, improve food distribution to recipients, and reduce food waste on Nantucket. Our approach included interviews with stakeholders and the assessment of databases, in addition to site visits and observations. After developing the map and database, we analyzed the food system; suggesting areas for production expansion, program improvements and future developments for food-focused organizations on island.
Link: Food Asset Map Final Report   Food Asset Map User Manual   Final Presentation

Executive Summary

Sustainable agriculture works to meet the food needs of today without compromising the food security of tomorrow. The sustainable movement, sparked largely by the growing fear of global environmental crises and natural disasters, is pushing for self-sustaining practices, locally-produced food, and community food network analysis. However, in the United States there is still an estimated 133 billion pounds of food that ends up in landfills annually (United States Department of Agriculture, n.d.).

Nantucket is an island community that used to be agriculturally focused, but now imports most of its food. Imported food requires added transportation which, according to an Environmental Research Letters journal article, has multiple impacts “such as resource depletion, pollution, climate disturbance, and biodiversity reduction” (Dalin & Rodriguez-Iturbe, 2016). Promoting and increasing locally-produced food helps provide fresh produce to supplement the food supply being imported. Sustainable Nantucket, Nantucket Food Pantry, and Food Rescue Nantucket are three organizations promoting sustainable food activities on the island. Improving the food system requires understanding and analyzing Nantucket’s current resources.

> Approach

On Nantucket, we were given the opportunity to work on a Comprehensive Food System Assessment, a long-term plan set forth by the three organizations. The goal of our project was to develop a map that identifies places on Nantucket where people can grow, prepare, share, buy, receive, or learn about food. We conducted interviews with stakeholders on and off-island, administered surveys to restaurants, and reviewed existing database materials in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other on-island sources. We gathered data to compile the food asset map and database such as address, contact information, and availability.

> Food Asset Map and Database

The purpose of this map is to visualize the aspects current food cycle and spark changes to improve the system.

> Production

Our map of producers on Nantucket includes: apiaries, florists, farmers, oyster farmers, fisherman, and other select producers. Below in Figure a are producers on Nantucket in black diamonds.

Figure a: Producers on Nantucket.

Figure a: Producers on Nantucket.

We identified farms in order to understand the island’s food production. We noted areas of aquaculture, which occur around the island by private growers and by the town, occupying about 100 acres of land altogether. Currently, there are open plots of aquaculture reserved by the Natural Resources Department available for use in Polpis Harbor.

> Distribution

Figure b shows distributors involved in the Nantucket food system (orange squares) and also food storage facilities on the island (green circle). Off-island distributors import the vast majority of the food on island which can become a problem when ferries cancel due to high winds. On-island locations with freezers and refrigerators are particularly valuable because organizations are able to store perishable foods.

Figure b: Distributors on and off island.

Figure b: Distributors on and off island.

> Consumption

Many Nantucket restaurants and inns are seasonal, however, there currently is not a program in Nantucket to use commercial kitchens in off-times (either at night or during the end of a season). If the Nantucket Food Pantry had access to these unused spaces, it could pre-package its own food, increasing the kinds of donations it can receive.

> Recommendations

Production expansion: There are open areas for aquaculture and agriculture on the island that can be utilized in the food system cycle.

  • We encourage the use of the open plots of aquaculture reserved by the Natural Resources Department in Polpis Harbor by current growers or by implementing a program to train new growers.
  • We recommend more exploration of agricultural expansion on the island. Criteria that make land suitable is: it has been used for an agricultural purpose in the past 15 years.

Future developments: A stronger, more developed food network on Nantucket can lead to a more effective system in the community.

  • We encourage the Nantucket Food Pantry to work with the Nantucket Health Department and interested commercial kitchens to arrange licensing to use vacant commercial kitchens.
  • We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket, Nantucket Food Pantry, and Food Rescue Nantucket work together in establishing a local Food Hub through Sustainable Nantucket’s CFI.

Food-focused programs: We recommend the implementation and expansion of several programs to help further the goals of Sustainable Nantucket, Nantucket Food Pantry, and Food Rescue Nantucket.

  • We encourage the Nantucket Food Pantry and Sustainable Nantucket to better promote their Share Your Harvest program and partner with Food Rescue Nantucket to organize gleaning and pick-ups.
  • We recommend Food Rescue Nantucket expand gleaning beyond the current two farms: Moors End Farm and Bartlett’s Farm.
  • The number and locations of Food Rescue Nantucket box locations could be expanded to make it convenient for more residents.
  • We recommend that the Nantucket Food Pantry work with the Nantucket Atheneum to implement a Food for Fines program, allowing library members to exchange non-perishable food items for a reduction of library fines.

Communication: We recommend enhancing communication between the organizations and others involved in the food network through the use of various applications (i.e. the program Slack).

Updating the Map: We suggest that Sustainable Nantucket, Nantucket Food Pantry, and Food Rescue Nantucket continue to work with the Nantucket High School students to update the map annually. We created a user manual to explain this process and aid in keeping the map current.

Map Promotion: We recommend that Sustainable Nantucket, Nantucket Food Pantry, and Food Rescue Nantucket promote the food asset map through the use of different forms of media to reach the largest audience.