By Kevin Hart
At Boston Common, team members are encouraged to be active participants in their communities. Appropriately, each employee is granted service days to be used during office hours each year. This is how I found myself outside on a glorious autumn Tuesday in late September, surrounded by a field of abundant, leafy greens, root vegetables and deliciously edible wildflowers. I was hard at work with my hands in the soil and knees on the ground, providing valuable assistance with the fall harvest at The Food Project farm in Lynn, MA.
Since 1991, The Food Project has been working to “transform the food system into a more just, community-engaged model”, supporting food security and creating connections between diverse communities and the land. Each year, they employ 120 teenagers to farm 70 acres of urban and suburban farmland across eastern Massachusetts from May through August, growing 150,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. This food fuels innovative initiatives designed to increase access to fresh food for low-income community members through work for share programs, sales at low-cost farmers markets, and via donations of over 180,000 servings of fresh produce to hunger relief organizations in Eastern Massachusetts.
Believing that youth can be powerful change agents, The Food Project immerses teens in food justice workshops where they work on solutions for hunger in Massachusetts and seek to identify and combat oppression in the food system. These teens return to school in the fall, themselves transformed by their new knowledge and connection to their local food system.
Individual and team volunteers pick up the slack through the rest of the growing season and that’s where we come in. I’ve been supporting The Food Project’s network of farms since 2009 and each year since 2016, Boston Common has donated money and employee hours to The Food Project’s Boston farms. This is just one example of Boston Common’s authentic integrated approach to sustainability, from investing in companies with a focus on health and well-being globally, advocating for progressive public policy to address food security and childhood obesity in the US, engaging companies to improve the nutritional profile of their food portfolios, and improving the lives of farm workers in places like Immokalee, Florida through supporting organizations such as the Food Fair Standards Council.
The Food Project’s Boston farms and greenhouse are located in the diverse Dudley neighborhood, which encompasses parts of North Dorchester and Roxbury. Nationwide, communities of color are disproportionately affected by diet-related illnesses. The Dudley neighborhood, a local example of this epidemic, is home to the highest rate of hospitalization for heart disease in Boston and nearly twice the rate of diabetes among adults versus the city of Boston as a whole. The Food Project is on a mission to improve these alarming statistics by transforming the food system and cultivating awareness in this community, while also focusing their efforts on the similarly diverse city of Lynn. Boston Common is proud to support to their vital work.
 (Source: BPHC Health of Boston, 2016-2017)