A Somerville non-profit working to improve the physical environment through community-based initiatives is aiming to address food insecurities resulting from the pandemic.
Groundwork Somerville has already grown over 1,000 pounds of food in its collaboration with a local mobile farmers market.
Groundwork has donated* some of what they grow to the Somerville Mobile Farmers Market, which provides easy access for residents to fresh produce in the area at a low cost mid-July through mid-October.
“It’s been a really awesome project,” said Jennifer Lawrence, board president of Groundwork Somerville. “We are really tuned into what the market needs and then the market is really tuned into what our young people are hoping for and needing within the community.”
The rest of the produce is donated to Somerville Homeless Coalition’s food pantry Project SOUP. In all, more than 1,000 pounds of food grown has gone to providing free meals for the city of Somerville.
After seeing areas of the community with a lack of access to fresh food due to COVID-19, the organization partnered with Shape Up Somerville (a group focusing on healthy initiatives in the city) to create the mobile market*.
“At first, it was really scary to go to stores and so we wanted to make sure that folks who needed food could get to it without needing to go to a grocery store and especially for folks who don’t have the extra income to order [online],” said Lawrence.
The market rotated through eight locations in Somerville, either by bicycle or van. It offered 50% off for residents of Mystic or North Street Housing, or for showing SNAP, MassHealth, WIC, or senior coupons.
The organization’s South Street Farm has produced various types of vegetables for the market, including eggplant and spinach. As the winter months set in, garlic will be grown as the “cover crop” to survive the season.
Groundwork Somerville is still maintaining its work at eight school gardens in the district. Volunteers have been planting at the sites, socially distanced and wearing masks. Additional food produced at the gardens have been added to the donations for the mobile market and food pantry.
As for programs, students have been able to learn about food production and harvesting through online videos created at the farm.
“All summer long we worked with the schools to figure out how to do it in the fall and they’re doing virtual programming,” said Lawrence. “Students have those lessons even if they can’t physically be in the space.”
Groundwork Somerville’s teen employment program, Green Team, is still being conducted through Zoom to provide a safe space while the members can’t meet in person. The team works to accomplish a cleaner and greener city. Past workers have gone up to higher positions at the company, taking on leadership roles
“I think educating young leaders about the history of our food system and giving them hands-on opportunities is at the core of fighting racism in our food system and creating a more just food system,” said Emily Reckard-Mota, Food and Farms Manager at Groundwork Somerville.
Groundwork Somerville is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, hosting 20 online events to mark the occasion. The organization hopes to work on a tree planting initiative starting in the spring, teaming up with Green and Open Somerville, Mothers Out Front in Cambridge, and Speak for the Trees in Boston.
Their goal is to get funding and a green light from the cities involved in the project, as well as to create teen employment opportunities for the young people in Somerville and Cambridge to build up said communities.
“We really want to just continue doing the work that we’ve been doing for another 20 years,” said Lawrence.
Madison Schulman is a student at Endicott College studying journalism.
*GWS Fact Check: The Somerville Mobile Farmers Market purchases produce from GWS at cost. The market was created years ago to fill the need of fresh produce in food desserts throughout Somerville, not in response to COVID-19.