Many low-income neighborhoods lack nearby sources of fresh food. Frequently there are no large markets in the vicinity; residents must rely on foods available in smaller stores, which are generally less healthy and more expensive.
One strategy for addressing this issue is to persuade more markets to locate in the area – but often that’s hard. A different strategy is to teach residents how to grow their own food, right where they live. That’s the mission of the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), a Boston-based nonprofit that not only teaches farming skills, but also how to set up urban farming businesses.
UFI manages seven farms in Boston city, in the middle of low-income neighborhoods. Every summer, it runs two distinct courses: a 9-week course in basic food systems, and a 20-week hands-in-the-ground course in urban farmer training. Both fill up regularly. Each year 700 trained volunteers come to help do the planting, harvesting, and other farm work.
Over the years, additional program features have been developed: a separate Young Farmers Program; a virtual farm stand; public lectures, workshops, and discussions; videos; and sales to numerous restaurant partners. UFI is growing, and it is thriving.
To build strong communities, it helps to strengthen residents’ abilities to address and meet their own needs — and there’s no more basic need than food. UFI has shown how this can be done despite limited funds, but with a clear sense of purpose, a committed staff team, strong organizational skills, and the provision of meaningful benefits; food you can eat.
UFI believes that “any location can be a place where food is grown for local consumption, local sales and local distribution.” When this happens, economic inequities are reduced, and we have made progress toward a just and sustainable society.
Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, United States of America.