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The Urban Food Project: Thinking Global, Acting Local

In 2014, Emmanuel College received a grant from the New Balance Foundation to create the Urban Food Project (UFP). At Emmanuel, the student-led Urban Food Project educates students and staff about food justice. In the Boston community, the UFP brings nutritional education and urban gardening strategies to low-income families

Dr. Adam Silver of Political Science and Deirdre Bradley-Turner of Mission and Ministry are the project advisers. However, even with admirable staff leadership, the UFP is primarily student-led and the project always promotes student involvement.

Members can become involved in educational, garden, or greenhouse coordinator positions, or simply as a passionate volunteer. The UFP grows flowers and vegetables at the NDC campus, and even maintains a modest honey bee colony. Summer fellowship projects at Emmanuel also offer two gardening positions at NDC.

Urban Food Project helps Mission Grammar students plants seedlings. Photo submitted by Anna Jacobs.

UFP Student Manager Anna Jacobs said that the college campus is a great place to get involved in outreach like the UFP. There is an invaluable network that supports involved students and helps them connect with more outreach, internship, and career opportunities.

“If you have anything you’re passionate about and you want to get it out there, Urban Food Project is a great place on campus to contact. Extra hands are always appreciated,” said Jacobs.

The UFP’s work was featured in The Boston Globe, and they can be found on Instagram.

Community Outreach

Boston is considered a food desert. This means the area is severely lacking in fresh produce, particularly in low-income areas. Factors like distance to stores and poor food quality prevent certain communities from accessing the healthy, fresh food they need.

The UFP is passionate about community outreach in the Boston area. They partner with Nazareth Residence For Mothers & Children in Roxbury and deliver fresh produce from the NDC gardens.

The UFP also partners with Mission Grammar School in Roxbury to educate third grade classes about food. Every two weeks, UFP engages the students in discussion about nutrition, labels, gardening and environment. Currently, Mission Grammar students are growing spinach plants to make into smoothies. UFP is planning two spring field trips to Emmanuel’s greenhouse to plant seeds and to the NDC gardens to plant the seedlings.

“Think global, act local. No one will make the change for you,” said Jacobs.

A Week of Food

Emmanuel joined National Food Day celebrations the same year it started the UFP. Usually, National Food Day events address issues of about Boston as a food desert. This year, the UFP recognized the large number of issues to discuss. They decided to hold week-long celebration where each day addressed a new theme.

On Monday, the theme was Food and Civil Rights. UFP discussed how historical events affect food cultures, how food factors into protests, and how food leads and sustains large-scale movements.

On Tuesday, the theme was Local Food and Labor. UFP discussed the poor conditions of food industries. Since 1996, food laborers and servers have earned only $3.75 per hour in Massachusetts. Farm workers are even worse off. They are paid by piece (ie. per bucket of tomatoes), so there is no incentive to stop working. Immigrant workers are mistreated further, because they do not have a voice to protest industry injustices.

On Wednesday, the theme was Food and Environment. UFP discussed how environmentally destructive and water-intensive production industries are, particularly meat and dairy industries. Bon Appetit participated by providing meatless lunch in the dining hall.

On Thursday, the theme was Food Literacy. UFP discussed education concerning food consumption and how it affects individual’s health as well as the environment. It’s important especially for young people to understand these issues so they can be mindful of their food choices as they grow.

On Friday, the theme was Food and Faith. UFP discussed the meaning of food in cultures, relationships, and spirituality. The Interfaith Potluck at NDC concluded the week by celebrating and sharing food and conversation.

The Food Week celebrations were opportunities to become mindful and understand one’s food behavior.

“On a personal level, I think everyone should be very mindful about food in their lives: what they eat, where they get their food, who they support when they buy their food. Vote with your dollar,” said Jacobs.

Emery Veilleux ’20 is the Assistant Managing Editor and a Staff Writer for the Hub. She can be contacted at and on Twitter @xuellievyreme.

Posted by on November 7, 2017. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.