Food and Fitness Coalition marks ten years in Mattapan

Members of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, including founder Vivian Morris (second from left) and Rep. Dan Cullinane (second from right) gathered to celebrate the group’s tenth year last week. Photo courtesy Dezi Leon Media Group

The Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition celebrated its 10th anniversary on June 11 at the Boston Nature Center, where more than 60 neighborhood residents stopped by to gobble up fresh food and groove to an eclectic playlist.

State Rep. Dan Cullinane of the 12th Suffolk District comprising sections of Mattapan, Dorchester, Milton, and Hyde Park delivered the keynote address.

“Today is about championing community,” Cullinane said, “those leaders who stepped up, who created from scratch the organization we celebrate and we rely on to lead and to inspire as we work to make and keep and inspire Mattapan to be healthy.”

Since its inception, the MFFC has spearheaded a number of health and nutrition initiatives in Mattapan, including the weekly farmers’ market at the Church of the Holy Spirit during summers and a mobile farm stand staffed and organized by youth leaders. The organization struggled early to find its footing and forge inroads, but it has rebounded largely by making significant strides attuning itself to the cultural customs of those it serves.

“We want to provide healthy food, but food that we know our residents are going to eat,” MFFC co-chair Shavel’le Olivier said. “Many of the people we serve are from a Caribbean, mainly Haitian-American, culture. If a farmer comes and has something a Haitian isn’t used to seeing, they’re not going to buy that food. But if they see callaloo (a leafy green and staple of Caribbean cuisine), they’re more likely to buy that and come back.”

Attendees at the anniversary celebration chowed down on a vast array of wholesome delights––barbecue pineapple skewers, fish cakes, mozzarella-and-spinach bread bites––prepared by chef Rhonda Persip. On the turntables, DJ Popula spun a swirl of reggae, pop, and everything in between.

“A healthy community is a stronger community,” Rep. Cullinane said, commending the leaders who patched together the MFFC a decade earlier. “Through your hard work, yes, Mattapan is absolutely on the move.”