Earlier this afternoon, I attended Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s speech for Food Day at Tufts Friedman School. In his speech, Mayor Menino encouraged the audience to “[work] together to make Boston the capital of good, healthy food.” He started off by displaying a number of visual aids he brought with him in a shopping cart – his CSA box full of vegetables from his own farm, an improved school lunch menu, an empty soda bottle, a Bounty Bucks voucher, a carton of locally produced ice cream (which he joked he wanted to take home with him), and a “reserved for food truck” street sign.

The mayor then spoke to the goals of Food Day by outlining his vision for Boston’s food revolution:

  • access to fresh, reasonably priced food – has opened 25 new full service supermarkets in the city since becoming mayor (talked up the controversial Whole Foods in Jamaica Plain), started the Bounty Bucks program 
  • making Boston a healthier city, especially through our youth – taking action against childhood obesity by taking soda and junk food out of school vending machines, and introducing locally sourced foods to school menus, taking sugary drinks out of public buildings, bringing healthy foods to the city through community gardens  
  • supporting Boston’s food economy – through our restaurant community and food trucks, which are “serving up jobs” as well as good food (he also highlighted Clover and their soy BLT sandwich); more greenhouses and farmers’ markets, including the new Haymarket public market

Tomorrow, the city will be kicking off Boston Canned Share (their 25th anniversary) and Mayor Menino asked for support from the community to help needy families. The funds raised through this initiative go towards the Bounty Bucks program.

He ended by taking some questions from the audience, but providing vague or tangential answers.

  • Q. Professor Alice Lichtenstien asked whether MA is considering following NYC’s example of mandatory calorie labeling in restaurants? A. Mayor Menino stated that they’re working with the MA Public Health Dept to work on this issue at the state level, instead of just the city of Boston. [note: mandatory menu labeling for chain restaurants is a component of the health reform law already]
  • Q. Brandy Brooks, from The Food Project – how is Boston working to strengthen the regional (New England) food system? A. He has encouraged other mayors to promote healthy living in communities but there are a number of challenges (e.g. budget cuts) to engaging them.
  • Q. What types of things is the city doing with respect to increasing availability and space for kids to engage in physical activity? A. He mentioned that the Boston Center for Youth & Families hosts after-school programs and  talked about the need to engage and reach out to kids who aren’t currently involved in physical obesity (like kids in public housing). He also called for the many groups working on childhood obesity to work together.

Although I learned more about the nutrition- and food-related initiatives that Boston already has, I was a bit disappointed that Mayor Menino didn’t map out his vision for the future of Boston’s so-called “food revolution.” Instead, it felt like he was patting himself on the back by talking about all the things we already do. I’d like to know what new and innovative ways we’re trying to tackle childhood obesity, eliminate food deserts, and encourage nutrition education in homes, etc. moving forward!

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