Tag Archives: food justice

Working Together for Healthy People and Healthy Land

VegetablesWhen Nourish Boston first came together about a year ago, our ambitions were broad: nutrition education, increasing food access, supporting local farmers, encouraging health and fitness, and connecting members of the Boston community with their food, the earth, and each other. A year later, these goals remain unchanged, but building partnerships has emerged as the key strategy in turning any of these ideas into reality.

There is an incredible sense of community in Boston, and there are many like-minded organizations that are working to promote and support health and wellness. Nourish Boston was not the first to imagine a city in which all residents feel a connection to the land and to the food that comes from it. Organizations cannot act in isolation, but rather we must work together in concert to achieve our goals. Engaging both the Boston area community and joining the collective movement of organizations working to make Boston healthy is crucial.

Fresh TruckNourish Boston has collaborated with the Fresh Truck to support their efforts to make healthy food accessible to all and to help individuals and families make more informed choices when food shopping. This past spring, Nourish Boston members joined the Fresh Truck team at Fit for a King, an Urban Field Day at Dorchester’s Martin Luther King Jr. K-8 school. Students and their families received healthy produce from the Fresh Truck, and learned about the sugar content of their favorite drinks, how to recognize a healthy meal or snack among unhealthy options, and tasted mashed sweet potatoes donated by the Haley House restaurant.

FIt for a King

How much sugar is in your drink?

Our volunteers have joined the Dorchester Community Food Cooperative, the Sustainability Guild International, and Earthseed Yoga in offering weekly community fitness and wellness classes to build their Bowdoin Geneva Hub into a resource for healthy activities. We have also worked with Taza Chocolate in a joint online education effort to encourage discussion around the importance of local, organic, and fair trade foods.

It is so important to work collaboratively when it comes to promoting healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. After all, great food is meant to be shared. Growing, sharing, preparing, and eating food with one another builds community.

To celebrate Food Day, Nourish Boston will be teaming up with the Mission Hill Health Movement by providing recipe cards and educational information about nutritional “super foods” at the farmer’s market in Roxbury Crossing on Tuesday October 22nd and in Brigham Circle on Thursday October 24th

In partnering with great organizations across Boston, Nourish is able to complement existing efforts for healthy living— and there are many! We’re proud to be just one of many passionate organizations fighting to improve access to healthy foods and encouraging community members to engage with their health, their community, and their environment.

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Will You Have a Part in Victory? Will You “Grow Your Own?”

Beverly Opening Day
Will You Have a Part in Victory? Will You “Grow Your Own?”

“Will you have a part in victory?” was an important question posed twice to the American people in the first half of the 20th Century; in 1917 during World War I and again in 1939 during World War II. A national campaign was launched promoting the cultivation of available private lands to increase local food production thereby greatly reducing shipping costs and helping the war effort. The Great Wars may be over, but the many benefits of “Grow your own!” are applicable today more than ever. So applicable in fact, one New England town teaches gardening to every 3rd grader as part of their “Be Healthy Beverly” initiative. 5 great reasons to grow your own:

1. Growing your own conserves energy and spares the environment. Today, the average distance food travels from the farm where it’s picked to your table where it’s eaten is 1,500 to 2,500 miles. Airplanes and refrigerated long-haul trucks require enormous amounts of fossil fuel, consuming resources and polluting the environment. In New England, why buy potatoes from Idaho and apples from Washington (or further!) when we can grow our own right here?

2. Growing your own looks and tastes better. In a blind taste test administered to local 3rd graders as part of the Green City Growers garden education program, the students preferred the locally grown organic fruit to the conventionally grown shipped fruit. Produce that travels long distances is picked before it’s reached full maturity because it continues to ripen during transit. Crops picked at their peak look and taste better.

3. Growing your own is better for you. Conventional soil has been stripped of natural carbon, nitrogen and microbial biomass, and laden with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This soil produces fruit and vegetables low in antioxidant activity and essential vitamins and minerals. And the longer produce travels and sits in a warehouse, the more likely nutrients will be lost. More importantly, childhood obesity is epidemic. Teaching children to recognize vegetables and know where they come from engages them in healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime.

4. Growing your own preserves genetic diversity. In modern agriculture, plant varieties are chosen for their high yield, heartiness, shelf life, and uniformity. You can grow a much more diverse garden, to produce a longer growing season, an array of colors, and the best flavors.

5. Growing your own is an investment in the future. Knowing how to garden, and teaching kids how to garden, is a valuable tool to have in the tool belt. Farming is a valuable part of education that has been lost. Not only is it better for our health and longevity to connect with our food – to harvest, prepare and eat REAL food instead of eating store-bought, manufactured faux food – and better for our planet; in truth, this knowledge may be essential to our very survival one day…

In the 80’s it was the threat of the cold war and nuclear weapons. In the 90’s we started to see massive scale environmental disasters. In the 2000’s it’s the possibility of global economic collapse. Each threat is not replacing the last, but instead being added to the pile of mounting threats. Gone are the days of root cellars, jarred preserves, and canned or frozen vegetables from our own gardens. We are completely beholden to the trucks that roll in every day carrying our food to market.

During an extended trucker’s strike in Paris, France in 1997, Parisiens cleared out the grocery stores within the first day. According to one account: within five days, normal, law-abiding citizens took to the streets and started threatening anyone who had food. Those with no food quickly crossed the line of sanity and started desperately looking to take food from those who had it by any means necessary. Civilization very quickly breaks down without access to food.

Or simply, as one 3rd grader from Ayer School in Beverly, MA, put it when asked Why is it important to garden at home or at school?, “Because if you don’t have any money and you’re hungry you can just eat the food you grow.”

What will be YOUR part in victory?

Augusta Barstow
Marketing Associate at Green City Growers

Miles to Go – More Food Per Foot

Food & Farming in Boston Is Picking-up Steam

Urban Agriculture Rezoning -- Local Food Production and Distribution Map, thumbnail

Boston Food Map

Boston brings farming back to the city

  • New Farm Zoning will increase access to affordable healthy food, serve all Boston communities and promote economic opportunity

The Boston Public Market 

  • Opening in 2014: 136 Blackstone Street on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway

These new developments will open up urban food production and delivery to an expanded group of urban farmers and are built on the successes of the Food Project, City Growers, Green City Growers, ReVision Farms and Allandale Farms.

Now we face the challenge of figuring out how to feed Boston?

cornerstalk farm is coming

CORNERSTALK Farm Boston

Urban Farms like CORNERSTALK are going to need to do two things, use all the land resources available and maximize production.

Real world example

Underutilized land in Boston

Lots like the one below will need to become farms.

In July of 2012 the Conservation Law Foundation published “Measuring Benefits, Overcoming Barriers, and Nurturing Opportunities for Urban Agriculture in Boston.”  They found that  identifying available growing space is going to be extremely challenging if not the most significant factor limiting the growth of urban agriculture.

How Good do we have to be

To farm the city with impact we have to use clean, sustainable technologies from companies like Freight Farms that can produce at 100 times the volume of conventional farming, right here in Boston 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

freight farms

Freight Farms – Controlled Environment Agriculture Technology

Metro Boston has a population of 4,640,802, and Boston has 600,000 residents. But Boston only has approximately 800 acres of space for farming. Adding new and renovated roof space for farms bumps this up. Based on data in the CLF study, this could provide food for 60,000 people for 6 months if all 800 acres can be farmed effectively and successfully using conventional methods. We clearly need to bump up production per foot, and start looking at production per cubic foot.

Urban Farmers don’t have to be giant “agribusiness like” companies to meet this need, but we need to use all the technology that is available in order to be agile, efficient and responsive enough to scale food production closer to the food consumption required. We can grow more food in Boston with no GMO, no pesticides, low water and energy use.

Looking forward to seeing you October 24th – Shawn and Connie

Food Justice @ Food Day!

Roxtweet #4: Food Justice @ Food Day

by Brandy Brooks

I’m in that odd middle generation composed of people who are both fully adept at social media and fully convinced that the young’uns are going to forget how to spell properly in another decade; so I admit that when I first heard the word “tweetup,” I may have had to hold back an eye-roll.  What was this new addition to the Twitter lexicon, and how exactly were you supposed to use it – as a noun? as a verb?  I wasn’t entirely sure … but Bing Broderick at Haley House Bakery Cafe seemed very excited about the idea, so I gamely signed on to help plan Roxtweet #4: Food Justice @ Food Day.

We’d both been inspired by a gathering in March of community food systems enthusiasts to talk about how we could make sure that food justice was highlighted in Food Day events around the Boston metro region.  In their book, Food Justice, Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi say that “[f]ood justice seeks to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten are shared fairly. Food justice represents a transformation of the current food system, including but not limited to eliminating disparities and inequities.”  (http://www.foodjusticebook.org/?page_id=6)  Many of the organizations gathered that spring evening – including The Food Project where I’ve worked since last fall – have been addressing disparities and inequities our food system for years.  Other attendees were new to Boston but eager to connect to others working for social justice in their new home.

That desire for connection was the idea behind our tweetup: we believed that if we kept bringing together food justice advocates under the banner of Food Day, we’d generate not only inspiring conversation, but also inspiring action this coming October.  We hoped that the people and organizations we gathered again in July would connect with each other to create justice-focused Food Day events on and around October 24, 2012.  We hoped for creative ideas that would challenge our assumptions about how the food system can and should work.  Bing and I were thrilled to get everything we asked for, and more.

Our attendees shared their inspirations for growing food, from connections to family and the soil to the opportunity for a political statement.  They asked how we move from policy and advocacy awareness to true citizen engagement, creating new conversations about our food system that are accessible and inviting for everyone.  We were challenged by the simplest statements: the most powerful tool against hunger may be helping people to get comfortable cooking with fresh, whole ingredients.  And we were challenged to expand our thinking about Food Day itself, as some attendees asked us to build stronger connections with World Food Day, an international day of action to alleviate hunger and food insecurity.  We’re incredibly thankful to our partner organizations that facilitated these lively and thoughtful discussions – Boston Area Gleaners, Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, Grassroots International, Project Bread, the Real Food Challenge, and ReVision Urban Farm.

So what’s a tweetup?  In my opinion, it’s a great way for social media to truly connect people – using the mass reach of a tool like Twitter to bring in new participants, but making sure that the end goal is the face-to-face contact that builds strong relationships.  I’m reminded of something that Lilia Smelkova and Rose Arruda (our national and state Food Day organizers, respectively) said on that evening back in March: the goal of Food Day is not simply a series of events, but also a community working together for a more just and sustainable food system.  I’m excited about the community building we did last month, and I look forward to connecting again with some wonderful new colleagues.

Brandy H. M. Brooks is the Director of Community Programs at The Food Project.