Mayor Michelle Wu announced on Feb. 24 the creation of a new Office of Food Justice in the city, formerly the Office of Food Access. Wu also announced the new GrowBoston: Office of
Urban Agriculture, which will be led by Shani Fletcher.
“This office will draw on the work that has been underway in Boston for many years and transform what has already been happening through the leadership of our previous Office of Food Access, focused on hunger and nutrition to bring together all the ways in which food security, economic development, and climate justice are all deeply intertwined,” Wu said of the Office of Food Justice.
The Office of Food Justice will sit within the Environment, Energy and Open Space Cabinet, and “will take an intersectional approach to food security that embeds social, racial, economic, and environmental justice in all of its work,” according to a press release from the city.
The office will also work to invest in food businesses in the city, as well as create more access to culturally appropriate, nutritious food.
Wu added that this office will “work very closely” with the GrowBoston: Office of Urban Agriculture. The office will also “be charged with implementation of the good food purchasing program initiative that Boston opted into a few years ago with a City Council ordinance that led the way and put Boston on the map as the first city on the East Coast to participate in thinking about all the different ways in which food affects our outcomes and closes gaps in communities.”
According to the city, “GrowBoson is focused on food production, while OFJ is focused on food access.”
Wu said that aside from meals provided to Boston Public Schools or through the Age Strong Commission, the Office of Food Justice will seek to partner with larger institutions in the city such as hospitals and universities.
According to the city, the GrowBoston: Office of Urban Agriculture will live within the Housing Cabinet and aim to “increase food production throughout Boston; develop and implement innovative food production strategies; provide technical assistance to prospective and existing gardens and farms; develop food production resources for gardeners, farmers, and other residents; and coordinate with other City departments to expand citywide urban agriculture,” as well as address climate change and food injustice.
Wu said that “for a few years now,” Boston has focused on urban agriculture. The city said that community gardening has been made possible by Article 89, “one of the first zoning regulations in the country to address and explicitly allow urban farming,” and the need for access to community gardens for growing food has expanded, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Boston has a long history of urban agriculture in many forms, and our field has seen ever-increasing momentum over the past decade,” said Shani Fletcher, Director of GrowBoston. “I am thrilled to take on this leadership role as Boston moves into an era of increased investment in food system transformation with an eye towards equity.”