- Public Policy
- State Public Policy, Legislation & Advocacy
State Public Policy, Legislation & Advocacy
Updated October 31, 2023
Massachusetts Public Policy
As a state affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy), the Massachusetts Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (MAND) promotes public policy and advocates for issues in line with those of the Academy. The Academy’s defined legislative and public policy priority areas, which are critical to achieving its mission, vision, goals and strategies, are outlined in its Strategic Plan Roadmap.
Read more about the Academy’s legislative and public policy priorities: https://www.eatrightpro.org/about-us/our-work/public-policy-priorities
MAND's vision is that “Massachusetts residents will thrive through the transformative power of food and nutrition,” and our mission is to “empower MAND members, through advocacy and education, to serve their communities as nutrition experts.” MAND’s public policy activities at the state level seek to achieve both.
MAND Public Policy Panel
Every state affiliate of the Academy has a group of elected and appointed members who make up its Public Policy Panel (PPP). The Academy outlines PPP positions and provides guidance and support to affiliate PPP members. The Policy Initiatives and Advocacy team in the Academy’s Washington, DC, office is available to PPP members to assist and guide them in their public policy and advocacy efforts.
Massachusetts State Legislature
Formally called “The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” the Massachusetts legislature is responsible for enacting laws in the state, as well as passing an annual budget. It is comprised of a Senate, with 40 members, and a House of Representatives, with 160 members, all of whom serve two-year terms. Each new two-year legislative session begins on the first Wednesday of each odd-numbered year (e.g., January 4, 2023), and ends its formal session on the July 31st of the even-numbered year, with informal sessions running through the end of December.
MAND tracks bills that impact the health and nutrition of Massachusetts residents as well as those that impact our profession and dietetic licensure. We also track annual state budgets, as these affect government spending on programs which employ our members and provide nutrition, health and prevention services for state residents.
Learn about the Massachusetts legislature:https://malegislature.gov/
MAND encourages all members to call upon their state senators and representatives to support bills and budget items in line with our public policy and legislative priorities, as well as to introduce them to our organization and the many important roles of RDNs and NDTRs working across the state.
Legislation - Bills & Public Hearings
MAND tracks bills introduced in the legislature and attends public hearings at the State House. Hearings provide an opportunity for members of the public to provide “verbal testimony” and speak directly to legislators to voice their support for or opposition to certain bills. Public hearings also provide an opportunity to submit “written testimony,” position statements for or against a bill.
MAND reaches out to members when it seeks input on a bill for which we plan to provide verbal or written testimony. Many times, we are looking for members with career expertise in the area impacted by the bill, such as elder care, healthy food access, public food assistance programs and public health. We urge any member to get involved in this process and also hope to hear from members when called upon to provide input.
An example of a bill in line with the Academy’s and MAND’s public policy priorities, “An Act regarding breakfast after the bell,” mandated that all public K-12 schools serving free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to at least 60% of the students, offer all students a school breakfast after the instructional day has begun. It took effect in September 2022. A current example is “An Act relative to universal school meals,” calling for all public K-12 schools to serve free school breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of income. The fiscal year 2024 budget included funding for this program and the hope is that funding will be authorized next year and each following year.
Annual Legislative Event - Day on the Hill
The Academy encourages each state affiliate to hold an annual state-level legislative event. To promote its mission, provide members an opportunity to engage in the state legislative process and introduce state legislators to our organization and profession, MAND holds its “Day on the Hill” at the State House.
Each year’s event has a theme, such as nutrition in prevention and wellness, creative solutions to reduce food insecurity or reducing malnutrition in seniors. MAND members working in the specific area being highlighted are asked to speak at the event. The event kicks off with welcome remarks from a state senator(s) or representative(s) who supports public policy and legislation related to nutrition, health and well-being.
MAND needs the support of all members, RDNs, NDTRs, dietetic interns and nutrition students alike, to make the event a success. Please check the MAND website’s Events & Meetings section for information on the upcoming event.
Public Policy Partnerships
MAND is an organizational member of several state associations and stakeholder groups. MAND’s PPP works with them to impact public policy to improve public health, especially increasing access to healthy, affordable food, reducing rates of malnutrition and food insecurity and its long-term consequences on health.
One such organization is the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA), who puts out “action alerts” at key times in the legislative cycle, such as when a bill is up for a vote by the legislative committee of jurisdiction. MAND supports many of the organization’s advocacy campaigns, most notably to increase investment to standardize public health efforts across the state, as Massachusetts municipalities currently operate independently.
Learn more about the Massachusetts Public Health Association: https://mapublichealth.org/policy-priorities/
Regulation - DPH
In addition to legislation, MAND tracks regulation at the state level. Regulations are the specific rules created for carrying out legislation. Regulatory agencies, such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), set and revise regulations over time, and, as with legislation, seek public comment when they do so.
Other regulations impact our profession directly. The Bureau of Health Professions Licensure (BHPL) oversees the Board of Registration of Dietitians and Nutritionists, which grants licenses to qualified dietitians and oversees licensees to ensure they are complying with all requirements relating to ethical practice, ongoing continuing education and license renewal. https://www.mass.gov/orgs/bureau-of-health-professions-licensure
Massachusetts is one of 48 states with dietetic licensure or certification. After many years of grassroots advocacy work performed by hundreds of MAND members, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill in 1999 establishing the Board of Registration of Dietitians and Nutritionists and creating the credential “licensed dietitian/nutritionist” or “LDN” and the process for obtaining state licensure, thereby creating an extra level of protection for the public against those practicing without the proper education, supervised practice and ethical guidelines requisite of the profession.
As with other bills, MAND may attend public hearings or submit written testimony related to state legislation affecting dietetic licensure or the practice of licensed dietitians. A recent example is “An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first” (telehealth bill). For more information on telehealth services in Massachusetts, see Telehealth & Reimbursement for MNT page.
The Academy asks all state affiliates to appoint a Consumer Protection Coordinator (CPC). MAND’s CPC serves as the liaison to the Board of Registration of Dietitians and Nutritionists, attending its quarterly meetings to represent MAND, facilitate clear and effective communication between the Board and MAND and address questions pertaining to licensure and continuing education requirements.
To learn more about dietetic licensure, see Licensure Information, located under Professional Development.
MAND & Advocacy
If you are interested in MAND’s public policy activities, such as responding to “action alerts” to support nutrition legislation or getting involved in our activities to promote our profession, consider joining MAND’s “grassroots network,” an email list of MAND members who wish to stay updated about public policy. Or consider joining one of the PPP’s monthly conference calls.
MAND has many ways to get involved and we would love for you to do so! If so, please email MAND's Director of Public Policy, Sarah Conca, at email@example.com.
Other resources for those wishing to learn more about public policy in Massachusetts:
The Food is Medicine Massachusetts Coalition (FIMMA) was created to address the nutritional needs of individuals through the health care system to prevent, manage, and treat diet-related chronic illnesses. Food is Medicine interventions improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs.
The Food is Medicine Massachusetts State Plan is the culmination of two years’ work from a variety of statewide stakeholders in Food is Medicine interventions. The State Plan contains strategies for organizations and state agencies to use to improve access to Food is Medicine over time.
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative (MFSC) was created following the completion of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan in December 2015. The goals of the Collaborative are to promote, monitor and facilitate implementation of the Plan. https://www.mafoodsystem.org
Massachusetts Health Council (MHC) leads a stakeholder group working to strengthen a culture of health in Massachusetts, promoting policies and programs to enable healthier lifestyles, wellness, and preventative care.
Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) is a private, non-profit, statewide membership organization founded in 1879, and is now a leading affiliate that promotes a healthy Massachusetts through advocacy, education, community organizing and coalition building. They support policies and programs to prevent illness, disease and injury, with a focus on communities facing inequities.
MASSterList is a daily email with state and local political and public policy headlines. http://www.massterlist.com/subscribe