Monday, November 4, 2013

Boston Food Systems Tour —APHA 2013

Notice anything new? Why, yes! I did happen to change my blog name. Welcome to Lettuce Spoon, a casual food-interest based blog covering restaurant reviews, healthy recipes, and food events. To kick start the new name, I am going to cover a food systems tour I joined over the weekend. 

This week Boston is hosting the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) conference. Part of the festivities was an excursion tour to several food system sites in the south Boston area hosted by the Food and Environment Working Group. It was an eye opening day that reinforced my keen interests in where my food comes from and how food is used to better a society, and it was a refreshing reminder of how nutrition could play an integral role in a community. Our group of food activists was able to visit a series of sites and hear from a variety of organizations including, but not limited to, the following:
  • Community Servings
  • The Food Project
  • Serving Ourselves
  • Boston Public Health Commission
  • Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness
  • City Fresh Foods
  • Red's Best

Here's some more information on the site visits we attended: 

Community Servings is a non-profit food and nutrition program that provides families living with chronic illnesses nutritious frozen meals. These meals are free, home-delivered, and constructed in large part by volunteer forces. The meals are tailored to meet the nutritional needs of their clients as well as to trigger food memories. This is done by providing the clients with culturally appropriate meals prepared by the diverse staff at Community Servings. 

What intrigued me the most about Community Servings was their logistical set up. Really this is all a huge food safety nightmare because it's a food delivery system for a high risk population. However, the CEO David Waters broke it all down for us and everything from the floor plan to the assembly line had been carefully considered to create an efficient and safe food service site. 

If you're interested in volunteering individually or as a group, do not hesitate to visit their website. Also, if you are in the Boston area, order your Thanksgiving pies from here to support their cause and to provide their client families with pies as well! 

Community Servings
18 Marbury Terrace
Boston, MA

Our next stop was The Food Project at the Dudley Square Greenhouses. First of all, I had no idea there was such a spacious greenhouse in the middle of the city. Second of all, I really wish they had these kinds of food system related youth leadership opportunities available when I was in high school. Most of our tour of the grounds was led by a group of their high school interns, and I was impressed by their knowledge of farming, the food system, and the organization. 

The produce grown by The Food Project is then sold in local farmers markets, distributed in reduced price CSAs, or donated to local hunger relief organizations. They also host many opportunities to learn about growing their own food or starting their own gardens. The Food Project holds regular community events, fundraisers, and volunteer opportunities, so do not hesitate to check out their events and workshops listing

The Food Project - Dudley Greenhouse
11 Brook Avenue
Roxbury, MA

Our group did not get to visit Serving Ourselves, but they still generously donated boxed lunches for us to enjoy. Our deliverer also happened to be one of the chefs, and he explained his work at the Serving Ourselves Farm at Boston's Long Island Shelter. 

The farm produces over 25,000 pounds of produce, eggs, and honey a year, which is used to prepare meals for more than 800 homeless people a day. Serving Ourselves also provides hands on training for its clients in planting, tending, harvesting, marketing, and more. 

If you're interested in supporting the organization, you can give your time in volunteering or you can symbolically adopt a hen, a hive, or a fruit tree for a very reasonable price! 

Friends of Boston Homeless
12 Wise Street
Boston, MA

I thought Community Servings was a food safety nightmare until I heard about City Fresh Foods. They are a local business with high social consciousness that delivers more than 10,000 daily hot meals to schools, hospitals, and others. They also provide nutrition education opportunities and offer culturally appropriate choices. 

The CEO, Glen, talked about how he believes that, "the system is not doing the right job in feeding our people." He is invested in making positive changes in his community because his own kids and parents are receiving these meals as well. He focuses on replacing animal proteins with plant-based ones and reducing sodium and saturated fat intake. In the long term, he hopes for this to be a cost effective way of preventative healthcare and to change the eating behaviors of his clients. 

You should visit their site if you are interested in learning more or working with City Fresh Foods.  

City Fresh Foods
69 Shirley Street
Boston, MA

Our final stop was at Red's Best, where I learned for the first time the importance of purchasing local seafood. I really try not to think too hard about where my fish comes from because chances are the ones I am buying in Boston Chinatown were born and corn fed at fishery farms. Red's not only purchases wild fish from local fisherman for distribution in the northeast, but they are committed to teaching the general public the importance of supporting your local fishermen. 

To the team at Red's, supporting the cause of sustainable fishing and local fishermen is just as important as all the work that is being done on sustainable farming. You have the right to know who caught your fish and where it was caught, and Red's provides that for information for you. 

Learn more about traceability here.

Red's Best
13 Fish Pier Street West
Boston, MA

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