- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: community development, local and regional food systems
In many lower-income neighborhoods of large urban areas there are food deserts–whole areas devoid of food markets or grocery stores where residents can purchase fresh and unprocessed food. As result, people’s diets, particularly among low-income residents, are deficient in fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, economic constraints compel residents of these areas to buy the cheapest calories available, which are largely overly processed fast foods with high contents of fats and sugars. A lack of access to affordable fresh food is at the heart of the growing epidemics of obesity, diabetes and related health problems seen so frequently in low-income urban areas.
There is growing attention to the role local agriculture can play to improve access to and increase consumption of fresh, unprocessed food. By linking local agriculture to urban and peri-urban markets, farmers gain access to new markets that help them retain more of the “food dollar.” Creating new markets in underserved areas, such as a new farmers market, also provide a solution to the problem of food deserts. Residents that otherwise would have no direct access to whole, fresh, healthful food can now buy directly from a local farmer. Increased consumption of fresh, locally grown food will increase demand, thus creating additional opportunities for local and value added farm products.
Mattapan is an underserved and low-income neighborhood of Boston and home to many newly arrived immigrant families. Data from the Boston Public Health Commission’s report, Health of Boston, 20041 (Chart 1, Appendix A) indicate that large proportions of the adult population of Mattapan (66%) is either overweight (85th%ile
Project objectives from proposal:
A diverse set of organizations – an organic, community farm, a community development corporation, and a medical center—have come together to create a community-directed food system to promote good health and local control of the food environment, with a special emphasis on local decision making in the production, distribution and consumption of locally produced food.
The Mattapan Food System Project (MFSP), a new collaborative initiative between the Mattapan Community Development Corporation, Brookwood Community Farm, and the Boston Medical Center, propose implementing a neighborhood organizing and public health initiative that will work towards the creation of a neighborhood-based food system council connected to a local, organic community farm. The Mattapan Food System Project will mobilize the voices of local residents to determine the food needs and the means to meet those needs in a manner consistent with the social and cultural mores of the community. Residents will be actively involved in advocating for their food needs related to commercial food enterprises in their neighborhood as well as planning for the production and distribution of fresh, locally grown produce. The project will serve Mattapan residents and meet the following goals:
* Provide an organized structure for local control and decision making about food resources in the Mattapan community;
* Increase residents’ access to and consumption of fresh, nutritious food;
* Increase food security of low-income families;
* Increase awareness of the benefits of eating healthy food as a way to prevent obesity and related health problems; and involve community members in all aspects of food production, distribution and programming with hands-on farming and marketing activities
By encompassing and integrating local agriculture, community economic development and public health, the Mattapan Food System Project addresses the interests of both individuals and the community. It will lay the foundation for an ongoing community-driven initiative that will improve community wellness and strengthen local and sustainable agriculture.