Mission Hill Healthy Food Festival Gathers Many

On Saturday, September 22, from 11 am – 2 pm, four community organizations in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston are holding their Second Annual Healthy Food Festival – call it a “pre-Food Day” event.  The Festival will be held in Sheehy Park (between Mission Church and the Parker Hill Library on Tremont), as long as the weather is good. In case we have rain, the festival will move to the Tobin Community Center at 1481 Tremont Street.

The Healthy Food Festival is meant to both provide a lot of information about healthy eating and nutrition and to offer samples of healthy menu items from local restaurants. In recent years, the number of restaurants in Mission Hill has grown, and the quality of those restaurants has increased. Once home to mainly pizza joints and bars (although we still have those), Mission Hill now has many options for pleasant lunching and dining. And local restaurants are eager to find ways to improve their offerings. Mission Hill abuts the Longwood Medical and Academic Area; hospital and college employees as well as neighborhood residents are interested in finding healthier meal options.

Along with institutional employees, our population includes students from the nearby colleges and universities (including a medical school, school of public health, college of pharmacy, colleges of art, and more) and residents of several subsidized housing developments – groups that often lack easy access to healthy food options.

For the Healthy Food Festival, one local hospital, Brigham and Women’s, has volunteered dietary staff to review recipes provided by restaurants to see how healthy they are and recommend ways to make them healthier. Eight restaurants are participating; they are very interested in getting this evaluation and are more than willing to “tweak” a menu item as needed to improve nutritional value. Restaurants will keep these items on their menus, identified as “healthy choices.”

The four community organizations that have come together to create this event share an interest in creating more awareness of the need to eat more healthfully: the Mission Hill Health Movement (www.mhhm.org) focuses on a variety of community health issues, including obesity and diabetes; Mission Hill Main Streets (www.missionhillmainstreets.org) works to improve the local commercial district and support local restaurants; Sociedad Latina (www.sociedadlatina.org) has numerous programs for youth and has held “sugar-free summers”; and the Tobin Community Center (www.tobincommunitycenter.org) provides youth and adult fitness opportunities, among other offerings.

Health institutions have committed to participating in the Festival (Boston Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Mass College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, and Whittier Street Health Center.) Non-profit organizations that address healthy eating will also be there, including the Boston Collaborative for Food & Fitness, Boston Vegetarian Society, Cooking Matters, the Latino Health Initiative, and Sociedad Latina.

This festival was in the planning stages before we’d heard about the plans for Food Day in October. Exciting as it was to think about joining with a national movement, we decided to keep our event in September (hoping it will be nice enough to have it outdoors). We would like to carry some activities from our event in September straight through to Food Day, especially keeping healthy items on local menus. We are considering sponsoring a specific Food Day event with youth at the Tobin Community Center. And we want to use our Healthy Food Festival to build awareness and excitement about Food Day!

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