Pre-departure notes

Towards the end of my internship, I gradually started to appreciate how multifactorial this internship is. As part of the Market, I am constantly motivated and pushed to learn more about the social justice purpose of this organization. From the carrying out of the Massachusetts State program – the Health Incentive Program – to multiple tours I have given to visiting kids’ group, not only did I gain a deeper understanding towards each vendor in the market, but more importantly, towards the mission of the Market.

retrieved from https://bostonpublicmarket.org/Boston_Public_Market_business_plan.pdf

To my surprise, my learning mostly takes place outside projects. As I know more and more about the Market, I started to have some original ideas of event programming. For example, I wanted to talk to vendors more, because, after all, they are the foundation of the Market.  Then I tried to think of possible ways for me to do it. The most relevant ways would be using the Market’s social media platform. So I actively took over all the social media involved projects: taking pictures, Facebook live, Instagram live, etc. In this way, I would be able to improve my communication skill. I know that I am an introverted person, and am not good at talking to people. This internship offers an excellent opportunity to confront my weak points.

The biggest turning point of this internship is when I “interviewed” the Market’s community and outreach chair both to deepen my understanding of the organization, and to ask for her suggestions for office interns. I learned a lot of useful information regarding market strategic design, core missions, etc. Before the interview, I kind of just accepted the projects that needed to be done and finished up some small details of different projects. However, after knowing the five public impact goals of the market, I learned to spontaneously think of new projects and come up with new ideas, instead of asking around for projects. Although the point of having interns in the office is to help the staffs with projects, the main point is still to make work more productive. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I do think that it is extremely important to be creative and spontaneous. At only two year’s anniversary, the Market is still growing and experimenting. For example, the Market partnered up with a small tech company in East Boston and shot some recipe videos, including a goat cheese blueberry French toast, posted last week. I think both recipe video shooting and collaboration with tech company are very much an experiment rather than a long-term project. And I’m very curious how it will go in the future.

retrieved from http://bostonpublicmarket.org/blog/3079/goat-cheese-and-honey-french-toast

If I were to start this internship again, I would re-arrange my schedule a little bit. Now that I know work in the office and the Market better, I think it is better to come for a short time period in the morning, and stay over a longer periods. In that way, I would be able to experience all kinds of events in the Market, and also choose different days of the weeks to stay. Moreover, I really admire the focus on the development of small business, which I do think will be the future of the food industry. This new model will be infinitely more flexible and vivid than big industry. I really enjoy working here, and I’d definitely come back one day!

-Yuchen He

Market’s strategic design & reflections on myself

By now, I have been interning in Boston Public Market for over a month. I feel that not only did I start to get used to the flow of the market, but more importantly, I have gained more insight of how the market functions. By understanding the Market’s mission better, I gradually realize what are some aspects I can do more to help. Besides, doing different jobs with many other interns in the Market also makes me realize my strength and weakness.

 

I might have mentioned this in my previous blog post, but it was not until now I have truly realized that the Market is one of its kind in Boston, even in New England. It is a grocery store, plus indoor farmer’s market, plus unity of small food business, plus public education, plus hand-on cooking classes. It is constantly experimenting with new activities and collaborations, from kid touring to cooperating with big health organizations. The wide range of activities the Market is conducting is not all spontaneous or solely experiments. Instead, they are all surrounding the five public impact goals of the Market: 1. Economic development, 2. Resiliency in the regional food system, 3. Education, 4. Public Health, 5. Affordability and access to underserved communities. These goals define the civic purpose of the Market’s activities. The changing nature of each activity, however, is due to the experimenting nature of the design. The Market is still really young—only turning two years old at the end of this month. Therefore, the Market is exploring the best way to reach the goals.

 

The division in the market facilitates each activity. There are two major division in the office: the operating team and the communication and outreach team. The operating team oversees vendor recruitment, security, market operation, and all the publicizing side of the market. Essentially, they are making sure that everything in the market is running smoothly. On the other hand, the communication and outreach team’s job involves public relationship, marketing, community engagement, etc. While the events design is more on the outreach side, if taking place in the Market, the actually carrying out process will definitely involve the collaboration between both teams. Meanwhile, after reaching out to certain organization and secured the event, the operation team would be the one to carry things out.

 

Even under same division, people with different personalities are partnered up to work together so that each single part of event would be carefully examined. For example, when the community and outreach chair Mackenzie came up with an idea of buying a mobile vehicle for transportation of fresh produce from the Market to our farmer’s market, her co-worker Amanda would suggest to make a list of stops to make, in order to write proposal. This really reflects on myself. I always know that I am not a creative or spontaneous genius, and I have been working hard to become one. But seeing the division in the Market makes me realize that I should identify my own strength and weakness, and focus on developing my strength instead of improve my weakness. Only in this way can I be a more capable person in the workplace, rather than someone who is constantly catching up with others.

picture retrieved from http://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/blog/2017/06/30/bpm-blueberry/

As for the event designing part, for the first year (2015), the Market’s communicating engagement chair was constantly reaching out to other companies and organizations. However, starting this year, there has been some organizations coming to the Market and offered us event. Mostly, Boston Public Market facilitate programming, either by offering space or staff members. For example, the Market is currently conducting “Fresh Friday.” Fresh Friday is a program that Boston Public Market collaborating with Boston Children Museum and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. During which we offer fresh vegetables and fruits for free to the museum visitors on Friday night. We get our fresh produce from our produce vendors Siena Farm and Stillman’s Farm, and then transported them to Boston Children Museum in our “Blueberry”— a bright blue, electric “produce trike.” One or potentially more of our prepared food vendors also participate in this program by offering kids and their families something different. “I’ve never seen people ‘attack’ vegetables like this.” Mackenzie proudly concluded. This kind of collaboration is a bit like a reward. After an entire year of outreaching, people are now willing to offer, program, and fund events for the Market.

https://www.facebook.com/events/635821173290725/

 

Overall, I would consider the Market as a developing and growing marketplace. As I mentioned previously, the entire food industry is going on great changes now. The big (old) food companies used to own the entire food chain, from assembly to food truck. However, now more and more organizations start to appreciate and encourage the development of small business, which I do think will be the future of the food industry: more and more platform for small business to grow themselves, constantly bring to the public their ideas, and collaborate with other small business spontaneously. This kind of market is more flexible, vivid and extremely popular. Boston Public Market encourages the development of local food business, in the goal of raising the public awareness of food sustainability, nutrition, and community health. As an intern in the Market, I do feel that it is more than what I do that can help the Market, but more about experiencing the environment and deepening my understanding of the Market’s mission. From there, combining with my own background, I will be able to provide my idea and in this way, aiding the development of the Market.

 

A World (Market) to Explore!

This summer I will intern in the Boston Public Market. The Boston Public Market is an indoor, year-round marketplace for locally sourced groceries and specialty agricultural products, where residents and visitors can find fresh, seasonal food from Massachusetts and New England. The Market houses 40 local farmers, fishers, and food entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, almost a third of the Market floor was assigned to the KITCHEN, a teaching kitchen dedicated to public education, which offers many hands-on cooking demos, lectures, and is in collaboration with many community partners like Project Bread, Boston Children’s Museum and many more. The core of the Market’s mission is to educate “the public about food sources, nutrition and preparation”[i]. In my understanding, the core of this mission is to help the public regain their relationship to the origin of food, and to consider themselves as part of this environmental justice.

Another key part of the Market’s mission is to provide fresh, healthy food to consumers of all income levels. The Market is one of few year-round farmer’s markets that take SNAP purchases and participate in relevant city and state programs. As I mentioned in the last journal, one of the main focuses this summer is to help transit both customers and vendors to a new state program, the Health Incentive Program.

Picture achieved from https://bostonpublicmarket.org/blog/2983

The above is a brief description of the Market’s core value. If I were someone who had no knowledge in nutrition, food justice, community health, or environmental sustainability, I would most likely simply admire the staff’s effort and enjoy the vivid market place even more. However, from several classes I took at Brandeis, I now can look at this vibe in a new perspective. An HSSP elective “Diet and Health” discusses malnutrition, especially obesity, as a disease sourced in poverty. This class also gives me more insight on SNAP and several other US programs aiming to fight against hunger. Besides, in an environmental class “Food and Farming in America,” we discussed food deserts and sustainable agriculture. It was not until I started working in the Market that I realized the importance of factors such as supporting local community and seasonality of produces. I began to look for grain-fed meat in the supermarket, shopping more and more for in season food groups. I gradually started to apply knowledges from classes to real life. My previous experiences as a research assistant in Schuster Institutes opened my mind to nutrition issues in the US. One of the tours I programmed was inspired by my work experience here, which is designing a meal within limited budget.

A large portion of projects requires constantly (and repetitively) reading about the Market’s mission. After all, new programs are still designed around the central mission of the Market. This is when all the class knowledge came into play. On the other hand, engaging in the vivid environment of the Market also gives me more opportunities to actively learn from managers and vendors. In this way, I can maximize my learning during my interning process. Meanwhile, with all the background knowledges from Brandeis, not only can I finish my projects more effectively, but also am I able to interpret the Market’s core value better to visitors and tour groups. I believe community education is an important part of this internship, and of course, of social justice work. Although it seems that I’ve been doing all the smallest things, but they sum up to both my deeper understanding to the Market’s mission and better interpretation to the public.

Although occasionally it seems that what I have worked on does not relate to social justice issue at all, as long as I dig in deeply enough, I will always find the hidden link somewhere. Sometimes during a conversation with market manager, sometimes during a tour to a farm, or even in the middle of the researching a project, I always came across something inspiring. Social justice issue, at the same time, is also commonly seen.  This active thinking process really strengthens my ability to think flexibly, and to make connections whenever I can.

[i] Boston Public Market Annual report 2015, 2015, Boston Public Market Association. Achieved from: https://bostonpublicmarket.org/WP/wp-content/uploads/BPMA-AnnualReport-2015.pdf

Market June: HIP, Tours and more!

This summer, I will intern in Boston Public Market. Boston Public Market is a non-profit organization. Its mission is “to provide fresh, healthy food to consumers of all income levels, nourish our community, and to educate the public about food sources, nutrition, and preparation”.  This internship is a multi-factorial internship. I will focus on many different projects, including helping low-income people gain access to nutritious foods, giving tours to summer camps, visiting farms, interviewing vendors, help with market management, etc. There are two main projects that I’m very excited to work on: Switching into HIP program and educating youth of public health issues.

In order to give people of all income level the equal access to food, vendors in BPM accept SNAP/EBT for all eligible market products. Currently, a statewide program, Massachusetts’ Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), is replacing the Boston Bounty Buck program, enacted since June 1st.

There have been some complications in the switch of programs. Previously, EBT card holders will come regularly to the market in order to match their SNAP purchase by making a $10 SNAP purchase, then the market will give them back $20 Boston Bounty Bucks (BBB). These bucks can be used as currency to purchase all eligible food items. However, after the switch, vendors no longer take Bounty Bucks. In addition, only vegetables and fruits purchase will be matched. Therefore, though still accepting SNAP purchase, many vendors who previously accept BBB now are no longer active in participating program. It’s also not hard to imagine how unhappy EBT card holders would be if they have voided leftover bounty bucks. As a small part of this new state-wise program, there really isn’t much we can do to improve the situation. I can tell that this program aims to further encourage low-income people to purchase food of one specific category—fresh products which are more nutritious—rather than just any category of foods. My role in this program switch was very simple: understanding the new program myself, writing a summary sheet, and answering vendors’ questions while distributing the program packages.

The other project I will work on the entire summer is programming summer tours. Educating the public about food source has been the mission of Boston Public Market. One of the intern assignments is to program the tour for different summer camps. All programming starts with theme brain storming. Most of the interesting themes address on important public health issues. We have come up with a few theme ideas. For example, pretend you have $10 to make a meal from ingredients at the market. List what you’ll make, the ingredients you’ll buy, and how much each ingredient costs. This is an amazing idea, since ingredients that are in season and local will cost less. As I have learned from my public health classes, limited access to nutritious food and lack of nutrition knowledge lead to obesity and other health issues among low-incomes. Planning meals within a limited budget will help kids gain more insight on meal planning as well as nutrition knowledge.

Another very interesting theme is to keep track of the distance each vendor’s farm or source from the market. All vendors in the market are sourced in New England. I try to map out the location of each vendors, which can help the kids to start considering issues like carbon footprint, seasonality, etc. From a global perspective, health is really more than someone’s own well-being. Staying healthy means not only to eat nutritious food, but also to eliminate agricultural waste, to reduce carbon footprint, to help maintain agricultural sustainability, which is the mission of the market. “Eating is an agricultural act. Eat responsibly,” writes Wendell Berry. I always consider eating and growing food as responsibilities. However, nowadays, people lost their connection with the real origin of food. Indeed, when you can buy everything you want in a Stop & Shop, you will have no idea why seasonality and locality would make such a huge difference. While a year-round indoor market place really serves to connect people back to the most sustainable way of living. I still don’t know enough to draw a conclusion, but as far as I know, if people can be more aware of these factors, the money they save by supporting local agriculture will eventually benefits the entire community, both themselves and the low-incomes.

Overall, by assisting the operation of HIP program, I will also be able to gain more insight on how a market place make fresh and more nutritional-balanced food more accessible to low-income people. It’s well known that low-income people only have very limited access to fresh food. Very few markets in Boston area, especially farmer’s markets, accept SNAP, and BPM is one of them. Through tracking and managing user’s account, I will be able to qualitatively understand the real effect and value of enabling SNAP usage. By participating in the summer tour programming, I will gain more insight in nutrition issues and how each farmer interprets them from their perspective.  Eventually, I hope this way of thinking will benefit my own lifestyles, and will help me in following and spreading idea in my future idea.

Yuchen He-17′

Getting started in Boston Public Market

I will spend the most of my summer interning in Boston Public Market, Boston, MA. Boston Public Market (BPM) is a year-round, indoor market featuring locally sourced, seasonal food brought by and from the diverse vendors from New England area. As a HSSP major, I am very interested in learning about the agricultural sustainability. The philosophy of BPM seems to address sustainability a lot: consuming locally sourced agricultural product reduce both the transportation cost and the waste release. Serving only seasonal food items also reduces energy used to preserve food, as well as transportation cost. However, as good as it sounds, I wonder if it could only be one of a kind, or this operating model can be further promoted. Working here will enable me to get in touch with more vendors, and therefore gain a deeper understand the philosophy of how each vendor works individually to make the market functions as a whole.

This summer, I will work alternating between the office, in the Market, and Dewey Square Farmers Market. I was very excited before starting interning. I envision this internship to be very busy and productive: help setting up farmer’s market, assisting events going on in the market, working closely with supervisor with project after project, etc.

However, little progress was made the first two weeks into this internship. All I had been doing is organizing paperwork, sitting at info desk pointing out the location of bathrooms, and running around for unimportant chores. I comforted myself that it was just the beginning of internship, and the busy summer season hadn’t started. It was not until I got a project related to HIP (Health incentive program) when I develop a feeling of where this internship can go. HIP is a Massachusetts State health program for low-income people, or EBT card holders. This program matches every dollar spent on fruit and vegetable purchase using EBT card, however, only for fresh produce and no added preservative, salt canned or dried fruits and vegetables. In other word, this program further encourages low-income family to purchase more nutritious foods for health needs. The program enacted on June 1st, and replaced Boston Bounty Bucks program, which BPM matched a purchase up to $20 for EBT card holders. While printing out information package for each SNAP vendors, I got the chance to read through the info sheet. This switch made me both excited and concerned. I then offered to summarize a FAQ for volunteers to read and understand the program. It’s only have been a few days since the program started. I had heard a few words about the carrying out of the program among the vendors without actually seeing it happen. With a mixture of concerned and exciting feeling, I look forward to seeing how this program will turn out.

As I dig deeper into this internship and the office gets busier, I gradually realize that I need to actively seize each opportunity. Each project can be more than a plain project if I see the its potential and actively follow up with what is needed. How much I can get out of an internship totally depends on me: how much effort I put into it, how much thought I give, how I ask questions, etc. Through assisting HIP, I started to get a hint of the role of BPM in social justice and conserving of sustainability.

Yuchen He-17′