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