Urban food systems

How might we make food production, distribution and preparation in Boston more sustainable and equitable?


Urban food systems

How might we make food production, distribution and preparation in Boston more sustainable and equitable?



The United States produces a surplus of food, but many go hungry. American cities only have enough food to feed their residents for three days, making them extremely vulnerable to shocks in the food system. Fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,200 miles before reaching someone’s plate. By then, the majority is over six months old. Few urban dwellers are educated or engaged with food production and most have no choice but to support the global, industrial food system to eat.

The food system in the United States is broken and population growth, urbanization and climate change are placing additional pressure on an already strained system. Cities need to produce more food locally to increase their resiliency and sustainability.

How can people take back their food systems? What does Boston’s food infrastructure look like? How can a critical design process promote urban agriculture?


I interviewed five people in Boston who are engaged with different parts of the food chain:

  • Keely is a full-time farmer at the Food Project, a social justice nonprofit that promotes local, sustainable food systems. She is Nipmuc, Indigenous to the land she cultivates.

  • Jack is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Boston Area Gleaners, which organizes volunteers to harvest and donate surplus crops.

  • Nathan is a staff member for Fresh Truck, a repurposed school bus that drives fresh, affordable produce into Boston’s food deserts. It accepts cash, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) as payment.

  • Carolyn works for the Daily Table, a not-for-profit grocery store in Dorchester, where she grew up, that sells affordable food near its sell-by date to help people make healthy food choices.

  • Irene is the owner and manager of Mei Mei, a food truck and restaurant that prepares Chinese-American cuisine, locally sources its food and runs a profit-sharing business model for its employees.

I also observed Nathan during a shift on Fresh Truck at a housing development in South Boston, visited the Mei Mei restaurant and food truck and volunteered for Boston Area Gleaners with Jack. (Disclaimer: I worked for the Food Project when I was 15—they’re the ones who got me interested in both social justice and environmental issues)


Coming soon… the suspense!