Our Theory of Change
We do sustained organizing to ensure equal food access across the county. While food access is no longer our top priority, we work to preserve the change we've created and enable future action. Here's what we've achieved.
We organized to support the financing of the MFTP, which provides creative financing for entrepreneurs to open or expand businesses that offer healthy food options in low-income neighborhoods. It leverages private funding, creates new jobs, and addresses food insecurity. We won the authorization of $6M (2016) and the release of $2M (2017) for the creative financing of healthy food-related enterprises in low-moderate income communities.
We coordinated a “Take Another Look” photo series on Food Insecurity in the Berkshires, and won its display at the Mass Statehouse. This was a key step in ultimately securing $6 million of funding for the Mass Food Trust Program.
We won an additional $2 million for food pantries statewide, in a year that the governor proposed cutting funding from $15 million to ZERO.
When a Price Chopper in North Adams closed, a food desert was created for low-income residents and those without reliable transportation. We organized with low-income neighborhood residents to get a commitment from the Golub Corporation to prioritize the vacant space for food sales. We also deviated a bus route to stop in front of Big Y, and got a permanent bus stop sign installed, so that residents could access food in the meantime.
We organized with seniors, immigrants, and low-income residents to address the closing of the Lee Price Chopper in July 2017. We won a new shuttle for senior residents to the Lenox Price Chopper and the Lee Big Y, and several concrete changes from Big Y to make the store more accessible. We identified best replacement grocery stores and worked to gather petitions and supporting materials to attract an ALDI or Price Rite to the former site.
We met with the ALDI Real Estate Director for Western MA, and secured a commitment to monitor the Lee real estate market as well as a strong intention to locate an ALDI in Lee in the next few years. We are now working with Benchmark Development, which has purchased the former Price Chopper location, to ensure the inclusion of a grocer meeting community needs in the redevelopment.
Given this reality, we recognize that our transportation challenges cannot be solved simply by pushing the state for additional resources for traditional transportation models, such as the BRTA. At the same time, these challenges are too large to be addressed at the municipal level; many people who live in North Adams work in Pittsfield, and a North Adams-only transportation program would not solve their needs. Instead, BIO believes that our transportation challenges must be addressed at the regional level, with innovative transportation programs tailored to the specific needs and strengths of our county.
We seek to meet this need and pave the way for new models which can be used throughout the state. To do this, we work to build relationships between those facing transportation challenges and regional power brokers, research and develop innovative models, and push decision makers for their implementation.
We began this work in 2015 with a campaign to save Northern Berkshire’s Berkshire Rides program, which provided low-cost curb to curb transportation for work to Northern Berkshire residents who were unable to get to work using traditional services, and to expand the program to the entire county. We were able to preserve the program for an additional year and prevent job loss for those who relied on the service. Today, our work to implement innovative solutions continues with our fight to bring Liberty Mobility Now, which coordinates a volunteer based on-demand ride service to the County.
To make this local work possible, we also raise up a voice for our county at the state level. While we continue to fight for more funding for our RTA – and to hold the RTA accountable for providing good service – we also push the state to open up new revenue streams which can fund our efforts for innovation.
Currently, we are pushing for passage of the Fair Share Amendment, which would impose a surtax on incomes over $1,000,000 to raise funds for education and transportation, and for passage of An Act Relative to Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives, which would allow municipalities to raise funds for transportation at the local level by self-levying taxes through ballot initiative.
We believe that by bringing people together to craft innovative and creative transportation solutions on the ground in the Berkshires, and pushing the state for the changes we need to support them, we can solve this critical issue in the Berkshires.