Bridging the Opportunity Divide

In Boston’s Poorest Neighborhood, The Seeds of a Food Economy Are Being Sown

November 21, 2014
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In Boston’s Poorest Neighborhood, The Seeds of a Food Economy Are Being Sown
DSNI's approach to neighborhood revitalization is comprehensive including economic, human, physical, and environmental growth. Facebook/The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative
A community greenhouse is the hub of it all.

Boston can boast about many things – top colleges, rich history and vibrant business. And now, it can add one more item to that list: an emerging local food economy.

That’s right, ever since the 1980s, the areas of Roxbury and Dorchester have been slowly developing their communities into burgeoning food hubs. With community land trusts, local kitchens and retailers, a waste-management co-op and others, Boston is achieving an integrated food economy.

Back in the eighties, residents banned together and formed the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, acquiring 60 acres of land in the middle of the Dudley neighborhood. Since then, the land has been used to build homes and start a community land trust consisting of parks, gardens, a town common, community center, charter school and a community greenhouse.

That greenhouse is leased to the Food Project, a nonprofit focused on youth development and urban agriculture. Half of the greenhouse is used for produce that is sold to cover the majority of the operating costs, while the other 50 percent is utilized by local residents and organizations.

Food Project works with more than 150 teens and thousands of volunteers to produce food that is sold at famers’ markets and community agriculture programs in order to raise money for hunger relief programs.

Additionally, since 2001, the Grow or Die campaign run by Boston’s youth has been turning vacant lots into raised-bed community gardens servicing more than 100 families.

And in 2009, City Growers entered the scene. Started by Glynn Lloyd (who also runs Roxbury catering company City Fresh Foods) because he wanted access to fresh, local food, the for-profit farming venture is one of the area’s firsts.

Lloyd hasn’t stopped there, as he recently founded the Urban Farming Institute and facilitated in the passing of Article 89, a commercial urban agriculture zoning ordinance. As a result, a groundbreaking was held last July for the Garrison –Trotter Farm, which sits on two lots that had been vacant since the 1980s.

Along with the programs, gardens and more processing business, retailers and restaurants are emerging that want to utilize the local food. Linking all of these organizations is that community’s first step toward a successful local food network.

And for Lloyd, coordination and cooperation is the key for the future.

“Many of us don’t come from conventional business backgrounds,” Lloyd tells YES! Magazine. “Innovation won’t just come from private sector, nonprofits, or government, but from all of them working together.”

MORE: This Startup Uses Urban Relics to Serve Up Local Food

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