FoodTank Summit 2017 – Recap

FoodTank Summit 2017 - Recap

Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy hosted a phenomenal food summit on Saturday April 1st. No joke – it was a conference worth attending.

The energy and impetus behind this year’s Food Tank Summit comes from Danielle Nierenberg, the President of Food Tank, who brought together strong voices, ground-breaking innovators, policy makers and story tellers. She created a forum of discussion that allowed people to question policy and encouraged uncomfortable conversations. Debates were not the result, but the various panels invoked thought.

Throughout the conference, several themes emerged. The most prominent was the importance of integrating culture into food: if food reflects the culture and nutrition mirrors the community in which we live, then people pick up healthy eating habits, and value the origin of the food they eat. This gives a different definition of “eating local”. Valuing the farmer was another focal point. The power of politics in the affordability and accessibility of fresh produce was another recurring theme. As Doug Rauch’s stressed in his panel “Food is the cheapest form of healthcare.”

We first heard from the Dean of the Friedman School, Dariush Mozaffarian, who talked about the impact of poor nutrition on our society. Chronic illness, often attributed to a poor diet, accounts for 20% of dollars spent on health care in this country. Poor nutrition is a national crisis.

How do we tackle this issue locally? Catalina Lopez-Ospina from the Office of Food Initiative, stressed that Boston’s Mayor, Marty Walsh, is committed to talking about food insecurity, increasing accessibility and maintaining diversity. The focus: create an inclusive food culture that is reflective of the multiple cultures in Boston.

Message: Value the farmer
1. Improve economic opportunity for farmers. To value the farmer, we need to promote:
– Better access to Land
– Creative contracts that support farmers for the long-term
– Expanded access to Medicaid
– Better education for consumers on what “local” and “organic” food means

2. Push countries to a decentralized model.
– Debunk myth that US feeds the world, which creates weak economic policy. Africa feeds Europe; Pakistan exports to US; and other examples illustrate countries’ independence.
– Create regionally adapted seed for local production of grains, sweet corns, etc.

Message: Do not leave it up to the individual to change how we eat. We should covet good governance, healthier environments, and industrial change to produce healthier foods. If we value the farmer and give credit to farming, then they become impervious to radical political change.

1. Micro-level Solution: A simple way to value the farming and encourage individuals to look at the origin of food: Add names of the farms and stories of the farmers to restaurant menus.
2. Macro-level Solution: Prices are punishingly low. We need to work on generating income stabilizing prices that enable farmers to sustain a living and the poor to purchase produce.

Message: As low-income neighbors are faced with a lack of accessibility and affordability to healthy, nutrient-rich food, we have to be creative in addressing this issue from both local and national levels.

1. Macro-level Solution: Farm Bill needs to be sustained at a federal level to improve the nutrition and health status of households.
2. Micro-level Solutions:
– Involve the chefs. Decisions on where chefs purchase the food have consequences. We are moving in the direction of choosing healthier sources even when feeding thousands of people.
– Improve individual’s motivation through education, cooking demos, story-telling and other tangible methods that help people connect with the food they are eating.
– De-stigmatize SNAP
– Watch documentary A Place at the Table, which shows how hunger poses serious economic, social, and cultural implications for the United States, and that the problem can be solved if the American public decides that making healthy food available and affordable is in everyone’s best interest (synopsis taken from

Message: Make positive change that leads to more affordable nutrition

To reduce food waste, we must change our discourse around the food system, which will help improve the consumer’s perception of food and in turn, their behavior.
– Displays always kept full: Why do grocers and market vendors feel compelled to keep the produce displays full? This is a fundamental problem of the consumer, both at the retail level and within the restaurant hospitality business. The consumer is trained to believe that if there are only a few apples left, then there must be something fundamentally wrong with their taste. Displays overflowing with produce encourages purchasing.
– Discouraging vocabulary: We need to stop using the term “ugly food” to describe produce that has bruises or indentations. This specific term negatively influences the consumers regard for these foods.
– Farmers do not harvest bruised fruit: Luckily we have pro-active organizations like the Boston Area Gleaners that glean vegetables left on the field, because farmers do not waste their energy picking misshapen fruit and vegetables.

Message: Entrepreneurs are taking the stigma out of “health is death to the restaurant” and encouraging chefs to be disciplined in what they offer.

Keynote Speaker and James Beard Award Winning Chef Jody Adams underscored this point with the importance of “bringing hand-grown food into the kitchen.” Her new restaurants Porto and Saloniki offer a casual dining experience. When it comes to discipline, Jody Adams quoted NYC Chef and restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton who has compared a recipe for a dish to a marriage: “Staying faithful to a dish for seventeen years is like a commitment to marriage. One must stay true to your vision!”

The capstone to this summit were comments from the formidable and undeterred Congressman McGovern, who tackles the political stumbling blocks related to improving food policy on a federal level. He encourages everyone to view food insecurity as a challenge to the freedom and health of all Americans. Three Squares New England admires the tireless and fearless efforts of McGovern and strives to achieve his goal on a local level through collaboration, fundraising events and community engagement.

In terms of the efficacy of the event, I thought the Food Summit was worth attending and met its goal of focusing on agriculture, food and health. However, in a room full of students, professor, farming & agricultural representatives, industry experts and food-focused startups, we missed out on controversial discussions. It was Danielle Nierenberg’s intent to encourage uncomfortable discussions was only met when a food stamp recipient spoke to the challenge of purchasing nutritious food on a low budget. It was important to hear from an actual user and representation from our low-income community was lacking from the five panels. Additionally, more evidence-based research to the discussion on nutrition would have been helpful. I often felt that the panel could have supported the advocacy and advising on healthy food intake through science. But again, all in all, it was a worth-while event and Three Squares New England applauds the wonderful organizers and speakers at the 2017 Boston Food Tank Summit.

Food for the Holidays

Food for the Holidays

With the holidays just around the corner, there are plenty of ways to get involved with the Ride for Food community. Our partner organizations are hard at work this time of year to get food to families in need this holiday season. 

Giving money is by far the most impactful way to support the work of a non-profit. Hunger relief organizations buy thousands of pounds of food at a time, through economies of scale and organizational discounts they can make a dollar go much further than any individual purchasing cans at a grocery store. These organizations also have a deep understanding of the needs of the communities they serve and the most efficient ways to get them what they need. Take a look at the Ride for Food Partner organizations to learn more about the work they do and how you can contribute.

In addition to donations, giving your time is a great way to support the work of an organization and the people they serve. Volunteering during the holidays is also a great way to engage the entire family and begin a year-round commitment to supporting a local non-profit.

Here are a few ways to support Ride for Food partner organizations this holiday season:

Women’s Lunch Place welcomes approximately 225 women each day, most of whom have experienced trauma, abuse, and loss without judgment or requirements for assistance. Women’s Lunch Place restores dignity and empowers personal decision-making by placing the individual needs, preferences and aspirations of their guests at the center of their model of care. This season they are looking for donation drives of travel sized toiletries, warm hats & gloves, and readers. Contribute to women in need.

Boston Area Gleaners is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing surplus farm crops for people in need. They distribute high-quality produce to food pantries and meal programs by working closely with local farmers, providing volunteer labor to harvest what would otherwise be plowed under. Their goal is to build a reliable supply chain of surplus produce from local farms to people in need. Volunteer and give gleaning a try for yourself.

Food for Free has been bridging the gap between waste and want since 1981. They rescue fresh food—food that might otherwise go to waste—and distribute it within the local emergency food system where it can reach those in need. Their programs address not only short-term hunger, but obesity, diet-related disease, and other long-term health effects of food insecurity and poor nutrition. Give healthy meals or reach out to

Fresh Truck is a mobile food market on a mission to radically impact community health by celebrating food culture and getting fresh food to those that need it most. Their retrofitted school buses serve as mobile grocery stores and food health learning spaces. This holiday season they are aiming to increase the amount of fresh food on the plates of families in need. A fresh take on holiday food donations.

Here at Three Squares New England, we would also love people to give their time and energy to supporting our mission of enabling our Partner organizations. If you have time to help on an as-needed basis, volunteer opportunities will most likely involve marketing or administrative tasks. Please visit our volunteer page.   


Ride for Food 2016

Ride for Food 2016
This Sunday Three Squares New England hosted our fifth annual Ride for Food! This event marks over $1 million raised to support food access and hunger relief organizations in Boston. In our fifth year, we worked with 18 exceptional non-profit partners that work hard day in and day out to make sure families and individuals get the nutritious food they need. These partners recruited 350 riders who worked as advocates, supporters, and team members to help their organizations reach their fundraising goals. We were joined this year by State Representative Paul McMurty to get us fired up as we kicked off the ride.
The ride happens each year thanks to a tremendous team of volunteers that deliver, haul, arrange, photograph and organize everything that needs to get done for the ride. It’s because of you that the ride happens every year and all our partners and riders leave with smiles on their faces. The Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band kept everyone jamming along as they crossed the finish line. A special thank you to our Emcee Rob Blaney of the Dedham Youth Commission who rallies the crowd and gets us all of the right information at the right time. We appreciate all of your efforts!
We couldn’t be more thankful for this community of hard working people who never hesitate to kick it into high gear to help people in need. Though the Ride for Food is our primary event Three Squares New England is a year-round resource for food access and hunger relief information and events. Sign up for our mailing list to stay in touch with all of our programs and initiatives. 
We could not have accomplished this year’s Ride for Food without the help of our tremendous sponsors who gave their time, services and products to make the ride a spectacular event this year.
Food Sponsors
Shake Shack
Grillo’s Pickles
Big Bear Cafe (Dedham)
Polar Seltzer
Natalie’s Juice
Whole Foods Market
Good Day Chocolate
Sam Adams
Clown Shoes Beer
Ipswich Brewery
Bike/Rider Support
Frank’s Spoke n Wheel
Ferris Wheels
Body Balance
Be Well Within, Newton
Boston Bike Messengers  
Financial Sponsors
Direct Federal
Blue Hills Bank
Eastern Bank
Needham Bank
Walpole Co-operative Bank
Watertown Savings Bank
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
RES Software
Reliable Respiratory
AAA Northeast
Shake Shack

Tell Me More About: Food Literacy

Tell Me More About: Food Literacy

There are many methods of food production, distribution and processing and the impact on today’s society can often be hard to track. Within the Ride for Food partner network, we have a wide variety of organizations hard at work tackling their important piece of our food system puzzle. Leading up to the ride we will be posting a ‘Tell me more about:’ series to shed light on some of the intricacies of the food issues and causes around us. 

Tell Me More About: Food Literacy

For a lot of Americans these days, food comes from the grocery store. It comes from somewhere, gets there somehow and is packaged up for us to take home. Once it arrives in kitchens and on plates food typically is consumed quickly and with few thoughts or questions (maybe a few complaints). ‘Food Literacy’ is the understanding of where our food comes from and what implications our food choices have on our health, the environment, and the economy.  Think you know your stuff? You can test yourself with a food literacy quiz a the end of the post. 

Within the context of food literacy, there is a lot to understand about how food is grown, processed, transported, acquired, prepared, consumed, and disposed of. Lack of food literacy is the root cause for familiar issues like obesity and other diet-related diseases. There are several organizations that work to increase food literacy and combat the adverse effects of food issues on our society. Tackling food illiteracy can be broken down by encouraging people to engage in a few different key areas:


There is no better way to understand where food comes from than getting your hands dirty and growing it yourself. Several of our partners recruit participants on farms or community gardens. The Food Project has built a national model of engaging young people in sustainable agriculture. Each year, they work with 120 teenagers and thousands of volunteers to farm on 70 acres in eastern Massachusetts. At the Urban Farming Institute, they engage urban communities in building a healthier and more locally based food system through urban farming. Encouraging local food production by communities is a great way to increase understanding of our food system and increase the availability of locally sourced, sustainably grown food. 


In our fast-paced lifestyles, food preparation is slowly falling by the wayside. Prepared food from restaurants and grocery stores is extremely convenient and sometimes hard to pass up in a pinch. But the more we get into the kitchen and prepare our own food (bonus points if it’s from a community garden or farmers market) the more food literate we become. Our partner Fresh Truck provides access to fresh, nutritious food to areas that have limited access to grocery stores. An important piece of their work involves collaborating with community health centers and nutrition education programs to increase cooking and food literacy. 


Increasing food literacy hinges on promoting and inquiring about aspects of our food system every day. Volunteering time with food organizations all along our supply chain is a great way to increase your own food literacy while also spreading additional awareness. Do your shopping at a local farmers market and ask vendors questions about what you are purchasing, how it was grown, what is the growing season, preparation tips or anything that gets you curious. Try something new, whether it’s a new food or cooking technique, it will help broaden your food horizons step by step. 

Want to test your food literacy? You can take this quiz and see how you stack up.

Ride for Food Safety Tips

Ride for Food Safety Tips

Important Safety Rules for the Ride for Food

Wear a Helmet Properly

  • When to Replace Helmet

Rule of Thumb:  “If you are unsure of the condition or safety of their helmet, then just replace it.  If you can’t remember what has happened to your helmet over the years, then for peace of mind, just get a new one.” Read more here.

      • Proper Fit of Helmet


    • Follow the Rules of the Road
    • Ride Single File
    • Use your hand signals
    • Do NOT Wear Headphones
    • Remember this is NOT a race. We are riding to have fun and celebrate your commitment to hunger.
    • Riders must be 14 years of age or older. Riders between the ages of 14 and 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian.


Bicycle Safety Tips provided by our partner Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

  • Protect your head. Wear a helmet.
  • Assure bicycle readiness. Ensure proper size and function of bicycle.
  • Ride wisely. Learn and follow the rules of the road.
  • Be predictable. Act like a driver of a vehicle.
  • Be visible. See and be seen at all times.
  • “Drive” with care. Share the road.
  • Stay focused. Stay alert.


Protect your head. Wear a helmet.

Never ride a bicycle without wearing a properly fitted helmet. Helmets are proven to be 85 to 88 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injury, the primary cause of death and disabling injuries resulting from cycling crashes. Wear a helmet that meets the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard (see inside of helmet for presence of a label).

Assure bicycle readiness. Ensure proper size and function of bicycle.

Use a bicycle that fits you:

  • Select size: Stand over the top of your bicycle — there should be one to two inches of clearance between you and the tube (bar) and five inches of clearance if riding a mountain bike.
  • Adjust seat height — with a foot on the pedal, the fully extended leg should have a slight bend.

Check all parts of the bicycle to make sure they are secure and working well:

  • Handlebars should be firmly in place and turn easily.
  • Wheels must be straight and secure; quick-release wheels must be secured (see your owner’s manual).
  • Brakes need adjusting by an experienced technician if you cannot stop quickly, you apply the hand brake levers and they touch the handlebars, the brake pads are worn unevenly or they are separated more than one-eighth of an inch from the rim.

Ride wisely. Learn and follow the rules of the road.

Bicyclists are considered vehicles on the road and must follow traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles.

  • Always ride with traffic and obey traffic lights, signs, speed limits, and lane markings.
  • Know your traffic laws, found in the state drivers’ licensing handbook.
  • Signal in advance of a turn; use correct hand signals so others can anticipate your actions.
  • Yield to pedestrians and other vehicles as appropriate.
  • If you choose to ride on a sidewalk, take extra caution at driveways and other intersections.
  • Check for traffic by looking left-right-left before entering a street.
  • Control your speed by using your brakes. If your bicycle has hand brakes, apply the rear brakes slightly before the front brakes.

Be predictable. Act like a driver of a vehicle.

  • Older children and adults are safest riding on the road where the behaviors and responsibilities should be the same as all vehicle operators.
  • Always ride with the flow of traffic on the right side of the road. Motorists do not expect to see traffic coming in the opposite direction or on the sidewalk. When motorists don’t expect to see you, they may pull across your path or turn into you, causing a crash.
  • Ride straight and do not swerve in a lane or in and out of traffic.

Be visible. See and be seen at all times.

Always assume that others cannot see you. Cyclists must take responsibility for being visible
to motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists. To enhance your visibility at night and in low-visibility conditions (dawn, dusk, and inclement weather):

  • Wear neon and fluorescent colors. Wear special clothing made from reflective materials, for example, retro-reflective vests, jackets, wristbands, and patches for your back, legs and arms, and helmet.
  • Install bicycle reflectors on both the front and back of your bicycle. If a carrier is added, make sure the rear reflector is visible. A flashing red light on the rear of the bicycle, backpack, or helmet will increase your visibility to others.
  • Be aware of your state or local laws regarding use of lights on bicycles. Many states have laws that require bicyclists to use a white front light at night. Use of lights in low-visibility conditions is also recommended.

Young children should be discouraged from riding at night.

“Drive” with care. Share the road.

When you ride, consider yourself the driver of a vehicle and always keep safety in mind.

  • Choose to ride in the bike lane, if available. If the roadway or bike lane is wide, ride to the right.
  • Make eye contact, smile, or wave to communicate with motorists. Courtesy and predictability are key to safe cycling.
  • Be considerate and aware of motorists and pedestrians. Learn to anticipate their actions. Remember, pedestrians have the right of way.
  • Ride far enough away from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars (i.e. opening doors or drivers pulling out without checking).
  • Keep control of your bicycle: look behind you while maintaining your bicycle in a straight path; be able to ride with one hand on the handlebars and signal a turn. (Practice these skills in a parking lot).
  • Always look over your shoulder, and if possible, signal before changing lanes.
  • Make sure that books, clothes, and other items are securely attached to the bicycle or carried in a backpack.
  • Use bells, horns, or your voice to alert pedestrians and bicyclists that you are approaching or passing.

Stay focused. Stay alert.

  • Never wear headphones; they hinder your ability to hear traffic.
  • Always look for obstacles in your path (potholes, cracks, expansion joints, railroad tracks, wet leaves, drainage grates, or anything that could make you fall). Before going around any object, scan ahead and behind you for a gap in traffic, signal your intentions to move, then follow through with your intentions.
  • Be aware of the traffic around you. Ride defensively.
  • Use extra care when riding in wet weather, ice, frost, or snow. Slow your speed and allow extra time and space to stop.
  • Use extra care when crossing bridges, which are extra slippery under wet conditions.
  • Use caution when crossing a railroad track; cross tracks at a 90-degree angle and proceed slowly.

Above content provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.