Food for Change: 5 Food Groups Doing Great Work

Editor's note: In "Food for Change," we'll profile groups out there connecting people to better food access. In this series we want to applaud the passionate people and organizations doing meaningful work with food in their communities. Please share tips for others to include in this column in the comments below.


Pick an apple off a tree in Boston with the "Boston Tree Party." [Photograph: Blake Royer]

  • The Youth Farm and Market Program in Minneapolis, Minnesota connects youth with opportunities to garden, learn to cook and eat healthy food, and sell their wares at local markets. Year-round programs for 600 participants aged 9 to 24 encourage the values of community work, organizing, and healthy food access. YFMP has a strong cultural component, and sells culturally-appropriate produce to ethnically specific stores and restaurants. The group also organizes low-income communities to participate in buying clubs, and provides produce at reduced rates.
  • What if your morning walk featured a snack at the neighborhood fruit tree, laden with ripe fruit for the picking? The Boston Tree Party seeks to make this dream a reality for residents of that city, by engaging community groups and individuals in a large-scale apple tree planting project. The trees are planted in public spaces, and their fruit is available to all. The trees represent the group's larger vision for a food system without barriers to healthy, fresh food. The website includes resources on how to go about planting and tending to an apple tree of your own.
  • Red Tomato, a non-profit based in Massachusetts, works to connect farmers and consumers throughout the Northeast. The group helps about 40 family farms in the region connect with grocery stores and local markets, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. They also work with farmers to develop sustainable growing methods that are appropriate to the type of food being produced. Red Tomato shares its message of sustainable regional foodsheds in consulting work for other non-profits across the country.
  • Recently, gardens have started popping up in schools around the country. CitySprouts, a group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has facilitated the development of gardens in all twelve of the town's public elementary/middle schools. Children at these schools learn science, math, and literacy skills by studying plant diversity, crop growth, and harvest techniques. Summer programming for motivated youth includes almost daily monitoring of the gardens, and working with college-age fellows to increase the organization's community impact.
  • Second Harvest provides a wide variety of programs for low-income and hungry community members in North Florida. The group collects food donations and distributes them to more than 450 soup kitchens, day cares, youth programs, and more. Additionally, the group has programs specifically tailored to the needs of at-risk groups. Their Backpack Program provides a weekend's worth of food to over 600 children, recognizing that the weekend is a time when school lunches and breakfasts aren't available to round out a child's diet. And the Mobile Pantry truck delivers food to where it's needed in low-income communities, reducing the burden of transportation on recipients.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.