Trustees Mobile Farmers Market making high-quality, affordable produce available to Boston communities
What makes an urban community resilient?
In a waterfront city like Boston, communities and businesses alike are facing the increasing effects of our changing climate, and resilience has become a regular topic in the news. But in addition to concerns about how to make our vulnerable environment and infrastructure more resilient, studies show a growing gap in the health and well-being of populations separated by income. Selection and availability of amenities that can be beneficial to health—including access to open space, community parks, and fresh, healthy, affordable food—can be limited in low-income neighborhoods.
From June through December, the Trustees Mobile Market aims to help fill this gap in some places, and augment it in others. Officially launched in 2017, this truck makes high-quality produce accessible and affordable in communities throughout the city, making stops in Dorchester, the South End, Jamaica Plain, Cambridge, Roxbury, and the Seaport.
“We're trying to bring the best-quality food into parts of Boston where people don’t tend to have access to that food already,” explains Mobile Market Manager Philip Messier. “We’re set up like a Farmers Market, and sell organic, local vegetables and fruit from Trustees farms and other local, organic farms right outside Boston. We sell it at a discount, and many of our customers use food stamps.”
The Mobile Market is designed to make it as convenient and affordable as possible to purchase delicious, local food. The market accepts cash, credit, SNAP/EBT, and WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) coupons. It also accepts the Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) benefits, which gives all customers paying with SNAP an extra $40-$80 a month (depending on household size) to spend at farmers markets. If utilized, the full amount of qualifying purchases is automatically added back onto customers’ EBT cards.
“A lot of people want to know about HIP, which is a program started a few years ago,” says Messier. “It’s still a growing program, so not many people know about it. I think last year only 5% of Massachusetts residents who were on food stamps used that benefit because they weren't aware or they didn’t have a farmers market in their neighborhood, but approximately 60% of our customers use that money. That is the bulk of the business that we do.”
The Trustees Mobile Farmers Market makes stops every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (excluding holidays) at locations including health centers, community centers and housing projects:
Schedule for June 4, 2019-December 21, 2019:
12-2pm: Castle Square Apartments, South End. 484 Tremont Street, Boston
3-6pm: Seaport Common, Seaport. 85 Northern Avenue, Boston
10am-12pm: Villa Victoria, South End. Plaza Betances, 75 West Dedham Street, Boston,
1-3pm: Dimock Health Center, Roxbury. 55 Dimock Street, Roxbury
10am-12pm: Whittier Health Center, Roxbury. 1290 Tremont Street, Roxbury
1-3pm: Pier 4, Seaport. 130 Northern Avenue, Boston
10am-12pm: Mildred C. Hailey Apartments, Jamaica Plain. 1 Bickford Street, Jamaica Plain
1:30-3:30pm: Fresh Pond Apartments, Cambridge. 364 Rindge Avenue, Cambridge
5-7pm: Children’s Museum, Seaport. 308 Congress Street, Boston
10am-12pm: Roxbury YMCA, Roxbury. 285 M.L.K. Jr. Boulevard, Roxbury
“This program wouldn't be possible without Trustees support,” notes Messier, pointing out the features of the retrofitted truck, equipped to safely transport vegetables and fruit—but also meat and cheese. A shopper this month would find a wide selection, which depending on availability might include: heirloom tomatoes, green tomatoes, kale, collards, callaloo, cucumbers, celery, squash, zucchini, eggplant, a wide range of peppers, and fruit including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and peaches.
“Our farmers do a great job,” says Messier. “We get so many compliments on the quality of our produce and that’s really a testament to the greatness of the farmers. We have a lot of repeat customers, people come back every week, and we send an email on Mondays to let them what’s going to be on the truck so that they can plan and make their shopping list.”
(To get added to the weekly email, ask at the truck, or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Overall the goal of the Mobile Market, Messier explains, is to get people to rely on it in the same way they rely on their local supermarkets, and know they can access high-quality, healthy, and locally grown food on a regular basis.
“We want people to know we’re going to be there every week,” says Messier. “We’ve expanded the number of weeks we operate this year—we really want this to become part of people’s lives, we want to become part of the community where we’re going. So far it’s been really successful. When something is fresh, when it comes right off the vine and we’re selling it later that day, it’s remarkable.”
To learn more about the Trustees Mobile Farmers Market, and check the most up-to-date schedule, visit http://www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/csa/mobile/. For regular updates, follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!