Eastie Food Justice Organizations Applaud Wu’s Growboston Efforts

The pandemic exposed what many already knew–that food insecurity is far more of an issue in our neighborhoods than some would like to admit.

Nonprofits like Eastie Farm, the neighborhood’s eco-friendly community farm on Sumner Street, sprang into action in the early weeks of the pandemic and helped feed scores of people left jobless during the economic downturn caused by the COVID lockdown.

Towards the end of last month Mayor Michelle Wu announced the creation of GrowBoston: Office of Urban Agriculture as well as renaming the Office of Food Access to the Mayor’s Office of Food Justice (OFJ).

The new office, Wu said, will be a part of the Environment, Energy and Open Space Cabinet.

Mayor Wu’s efforts are being applauded by those who remain on the frontlines of combating food insecurity in the neighborhood.

“Eastie Farm punched way above its weight during the COVID crisis to respond to the need by bringing food to those in the margins of our society whom our society has left to live a heightened state of vulnerability,” said Eastie Farm founder and director, Kannan Thiruvengadam. “Eastie Farm has learned a lot and grown in the process and we hope to continue the work to address the systemic inequities that are the root of crisis-multipliers. Grow Boston (headed by Shani Fletcher) will formally support and promote urban agriculture in the city. As the director of an urban farm that has to work with the city I am delighted about the recognition of the need for the city to develop ways to help us advance our mission.”

Thiruvengadam went on to say that, “Urban farms help us city folks connect with each other and with nature; appreciate fresh food and the farmers who grow it; eat local; eat seasonal; support local economy; fight climate change; foster breathing spaces for the body, mind, and spirit.”

As a cabinet-level office, GrowBoston will work to increase food production throughout Boston; develop and implement innovative food production strategies; provide technical assistance to prospective and existing gardens and farms; develop food production resources for gardeners, farmers, and other residents; and coordinate with other City departments to expand citywide urban agriculture. GrowBoston will also contribute to Boston’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change while addressing injustices inherent in the current food system.

This step expands upon the Mayor’s commitment to making nutritious, affordable, and culturally relevant food accessible to all Boston residents.

“Urban agriculture, including community gardens, urban farms, food forests, and other ways of growing food in the city, can directly strengthen our local food system, mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis and ensure equitable access to healthy food in Boston,” said Wu. “GrowBoston and the Office of Food Justice will combat inequities in the food system, reduce the carbon footprint of food access, and increase food security while reducing climate change impacts. Boston has a long history of urban agriculture as well as food justice activism, and we are continuing this tradition with increased investment of public resources.”

The Office of Food Justice will take an intersectional approach to food security that embeds social, racial, economic, and environmental justice in all of its work. The Mayor’s Office of Food Justice will focus on five pillars to making nutritious, affordable food accessible in Boston. These include investing in Boston’s food businesses, building coalitions, expanding Boston residents’ access to affordable food that is also culturally appropriate and nutritious, using public procurement of food, and investing in food chain workers in Boston.

Wu said GrowBoston will secure new funding sources to provide resources and technical assistance to neighborhood groups and nonprofits to help them organize, buy, create, manage, and maintain urban farms, food forests, community gardens, and open spaces in Boston’s neighborhoods. As a result of this investment, Boston neighborhoods will receive improvements to and permanent preservation of community food production sites and other open spaces.

“Boston has a long history of urban agriculture in many forms, and our field has seen ever-increasing momentum over the past decade,” said Shani Fletcher, Director of GrowBoston. “I am thrilled to take on this leadership role as Boston moves into an era of increased investment in food system transformation with an eye towards equity.”

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