The Local Food Movement: How The Boston Public Market Provides Access to Local Foods
Posted by GreaterGoodness
The Boston Public Market takes the local food movement to a whole new level by providing a year-round source of fresh food available to people of all income levels. Beyond providing nutritional benefits, the Market also feeds the local economy and supports local farmers and fishermen. It’s a model Boston hopes other cities will follow.
Filling a Need
The growing local food movement focuses on encouraging people to shop at farmers markets, farm stands, or small local grocery stores. The movement seeks to support local food producers; to encourage people to consume fresher, organically grown foods; and to reduce the impact on the environment that occurs when foods are shipped over long distances to large supermarkets.
People like the idea, but farmers markets often have limited hours and only operate one or two days a week. By contrast, supermarkets have convenient hours and stock a wide variety of items so shoppers don’t have to worry that what they need won’t be available. The Boston Public Market solves that disconnect by operating year-round from Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. More than 35 vendors—all from the New England area—bring produce, meat, eggs, fish, baked goods, and more to the Market. Other vendors supply specialty foods, such as coffee, artisan cheeses, and chocolate.
A Unique Venture
As of its opening in the summer of 2015, the Boston Public Market serves as the only locally sourced market of its kind in the United States. Managed by the not-for-profit Boston Public Market Association, it operates as a civic resource with the mission to “provide fresh, healthy food to consumers of all income levels; nourish our community; and educate the public about food sources, nutrition and preparation.” The Kitchen at the Market offers food and health-related programs such as hands-on cooking demonstrations, workshops, and exercise classes.
Vendors ensure that people of all income levels have access to the fresh foods available at the Market by accepting federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. The Market also participates in the Boston Bounty Bucks program, a dollar-for-dollar match for SNAP customers to spend at local farmers markets and the Boston Public Market.
Economic Benefits for the Local Community
For every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $48 gets put back into the local economy, compared to about $14 from a chain store. The “buy local” movement is more than just a way to support mom-and-pop shops; it is about keeping money in the community to boost the local economy. Time reports that buying locally prevents communities from turning into “clone towns,” in which Main Streets are indistinguishable from one town to another because they’re lined with the same chain retailers regardless of their geographic location.
The Boston Public Market’s location in the heart of Boston’s tourist district next to Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market ensures that it not only funnels local money back into the community, but it also brings in a flow of tourist dollars. In turn, that money goes into supporting the people who live in the region, including the area farmers who supply the Market. A quote from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announcing the Market’s opening said, “Not only will this partnership increase access to healthy, fresh food for Boston residents, but it will also stimulate our local economy while supporting area farmers.”
Boston’s effort to provide a source of local food that is more accessible than traditional farmers markets has numerous other benefits as well. The Boston Public Market serves as a community resource for nutrition and food preparation information, it makes healthy food available to lower-income families, and it serves as an economic stimulus for the entire community.