Coming soon: Pedal-powered farm stand in Mattapan

Mobile farm standMobile farm standThree local organizations have banded together to bring affordable, local produce to Mattapan residents this summer. The result of the partnership is a “kinetically-powered farm stand” that will circulate throughout the neighborhood to bring fresh food to those who might not have access to it otherwise.

The stand will employ two “vigorous youths” from the neighborhood, who will pedal the stand to the Mattapan T station during peak commuting hours, Foley Senior Residences, and Ryan Park. Currently, the stand will operate on Saturdays after the Mattapan farmers market, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The three partners in the endeavor are Building Research + Architecture + Community Exchange (BRACE), Brookwood Community Farm, and the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition (MFFC).

Hansy Better, one of the co-founders of BRACE said she and co-founder Anthony Piermarini came up with the idea for a mobile farm stand after the group’s board of directors decided to focus on nutrition in Mattapan. Better said they were inspired by ice cream trucks.

After doing some research, BRACE found that Mattapan was a “food desert”, meaning residents have limited access to affordable, healthy food.

After finding local vendors who accepted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), BRACE decided that, if the residents couldn’t get to the food, they would bring the food to the residents. They approached the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, which has already been working with Canton-based Brookwood Community Farm for its weekly farmers market for the last few years. The three groups have been working together to get the project off the ground. The stand is currently being fabricated at Trimount Ironworks on Humphreys St. in Dorchester.

The mobile farm stand received a $1,000 no strings attached grant from the Awesome Foundation and recently gained the support of Mayor Menino, who will match donations up to $4,500 from funds made available through the Office of Fund Initiatives. The money will be used to cover the construction costs of the stand and will pay for training and the stipends of the youth vendors.

The organizers have also raised $2,780 this past weekend and received a pledge from the Whole Foods in Jamaica Plain. They are working toward an end goal of about $8,000.

Vivien Morris, the program director of MFFC, said the group has been running the farmers market in Mattapan Square for six years. The mobile farm stand would allow them to bring food to more residents, she says.

“While it’s good to have a stable place-based institution for getting healthy food in Mattapan, especially given that we don’t have a full-service grocery store within Mattapan itself, the farmers market in Mattapan Square partly meets that need during the growing season,” Morris said. “But we really needed a way to bring the food into the community.”

Morris also said that with the increase in public transportation costs, fewer people would be able to carry their food from market to home, so it was important to “take it closer to their door.”

Morris said between now and August 25 – which is when the organizers are planning to launch the farm stand — MFFC would provide training to the youth so they can navigate the streets safely.

The farm stand will run until mid-October, which is when the MFFC farmers market packs up for the year.