Tag Archives: health

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.


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

Food for Thought

In the United States we grow almost twice as much food as we need. However, the USDA published a report in 2012 declaring that more than 50 million Americans face food insecurity. What does that mean exactly? The USDA defines food insecurity as a “household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” According to the report, 80% of ‘low’ food security households surveyed responded that food they were able to purchase was insufficient to meet their needs. That doesn’t even consider those households with ‘very low’ food security. Where is the other half of our produced food, if it is not going to the hungry and food insecure? The sad truth is that most of it is wasted—left unharvested, culled for cosmetic reasons, discarded because it didn’t stay fresh enough on a cross-country truck journey, or thrown out in our own garbage because we bought too much or didn’t eat our leftovers.

Does a bigger apple taste better than a smaller one? Is a curvy cucumber less edible than a straight one? Are peaches with a few bumps less nutritious than those without? The answer to all these questions is a resounding ‘NO’. However, the USDA has enacted numerous grading standards for fruits and vegetables with little to no basis in nutrition or health. This has helped drive demand from retailers for bigger and more perfect-looking produce. Retailers claim it is in response to customer demand and preference, but many people who attend farmers markets would probably attest to the fact that the non-uniform fruits and vegetables taste just as good—and usually better! Supporting local farmers markets is a good first step in talking with your dollars by buying produce with no discrimination based on optical qualities that don’t affect quality nutrition. And the next time you go to Shaw’s, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s, tell the produce manager you don’t care what shape, size, or particular percentage of red your apples, oranges, and eggplants are.

So why isn’t the ‘wasted’ food being redistributed to people who need it? There are some great food recovery organizations, such as Feeding America, Second Harvest, and Boston’s own Lovin’ Spoonfuls, that recover hundreds of millions of pounds of food every year. This is still just a fraction of the total waste. Farmers can’t afford to pay workers (who are mostly paid by the piece) to pick produce that doesn’t meet USDA grades, even if it is perfectly edible, and most food recovery groups don’t have refrigerated container trucks at their disposal to pick it up from farms, even if it was already picked. The current system of subsidies for corn, soybeans, and other crops – primarily for ethanol and animal feed – do not help feed hungry Americans or make it cheaper for people to buy healthier fruits and vegetables. Wouldn’t it make more sense to redirect those subsidies – even a fraction would do – towards facilitating food recovery? It could pay farmers to harvest all of their crops, providing additional revenue, and deliver the portion ‘unfit’ for market to food banks and other food recovery groups. According to the Congressional Budget Office, crop subsidies are expected to cost us $95 billion a year for the next 10 years. How much food waste could we reduce each year with just 1% of that? 5%? How many hungry Americans could we feed by recovering perfectly edible fruits and vegetables instead of making animal feed and ethanol artificially cheaper? Food for thought…

The Sustainability Certificate program at MIT Sloan that I am pursuing in addition to an MBA has a strong base in system dynamics and operations that can be applied to improving the food system and recovery. The MIT Food and Agriculture Club is also dedicated to raising awareness and educating members of the community about food – where it comes from, how it is produced, and what effects the system has on people and the environment. Over the past few years we have seen positive change starting to gain momentum and events like Food Day are crucial to spreading the word and getting people involved. Bring your friends and see you there!