Mattapan is one of Boston's most culturally diverse communities. It is also known to be one of the least healthy.
Over the years, studies conducted by the Boston Public Health Commission have repeatedly found that nutritional outlets are very limited to the neighborhood's families. That's a fact that has proven deadly for many residents suffering from various diseases, mainly obesity and diabetes. In 2003, the Mattapan Community Health Center concluded the diabetes mortality rate in Mattapan was at a citywide high of 45.8 deaths per 100,000, nearly double the rate in Boston as a whole.
In an effort to encourage healthier lifestyles among the Mattapan community, a coalition of local agencies dubbed the Mattapan Food and Fitness Initiative has launched a new Saturday Farmers Market in the heart of Mattapan Square. The market began on July 14 in the parking lot of the Church of the Holy Spirit on River Street, where the sales will be held through the end of August.
"This is truly a wonderful opportunity for Mattapan and Dorchester residents," said Spencer DeShields, executive director of the Mattapan Community Development Corporation (CDC), one of the sponsor agencies. "We are working on a permanent whole food distribution network and we aspire to evolve the food facility and help fight debilitating diseases."
Most of the food products sold at the market are grown locally and organically at the Brookwood Community Farms, located just five miles away in the Blue Hills reservation.
"Our mission as a community farm is to engage the surrounding communities and reconnect residents to the benefits of local agriculture and good food," said Judy
Lieberman, farm manger at Brookwood Community Farm. "A farmers market is a great way to increase community access to fresh, locally grown, organic food."
Vivien Morris, the director of community initiatives for the Boston Medical Center's department of Pediatrics, says that the kickoff event on July 14 drew a strong community response.
It was extremely rewarding and positive first day," Morris says. "The residents turned out and a number of organizations were there. The mood was festive. The feeling is that we're complementing the existing retaiulers in the square and we're adding something new."
The Mattapan Farmers Market will operate each Saturday from 9a.m. to 1 p.m. through August 18 in the parking lot of Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan Square. From August 25 through September 29, the market will be located in the Parking lot of the Jubilee Christian Church, located at 1500 Blue Hill Ave.