Urban Environmental Program in New England
Grants and Projects: Toxics
“Cultivating a Healthier Lawrence”
A recent survey by the Trust for Public Lands found that Lawrence has the least amount of open space per resident in the state and the city was identified by the Forest Service as 8th out of 351 city and towns in MA in need of tree planting. Compounding these challenges are a perceived and real lack of safety on streets and in parks, which keeps residents from walking or otherwise recreating in the public realm, despite its dense development patterns that normally would encourage walkability and outside socializing. Likewise, limited economic resources, cultural norms and habits, and limited grocery store access within city limits, have yielded a widespread reliance on fast, high sodium, and non-perishable processed food. Combined, these factors yield dangerously high rates of significant health issues—such as obesity, Type II diabetes, and heart disease. Groundwork Lawrence has been making change happen in Lawrence, MA since 2001. Through its environmental and open space improvements, youth education and employment initiatives, community food programs, community programming and events, GWL creates the building blocks of a healthy community, and empowers residents to improve their quality of life. This project seeks to develop a growing community garden network in Lawrence, MA, educating gardener-residents about the health risks posed by cultivating produce in urban soils, as well as ways to avoid and/or minimize exposure. Project activities include developing and providing educational materials and workshops on the benefits of not using pesticides, reducing waste through composting, and conserving water through permaculture growing practices.
Measurable Results: Number of articles written & distributed; Number of workshops held; Number of gardeners relocating; Increased understanding of health risks
Partners: City of Lawrence Community Development Department, University of Massachusetts’ Extension Nutrition Education Program, Lawrence CommunityWorks, Bread and Roses Housing, and Lawrence Council on Aging Senior Center
The Food Project (Dorchester
"Cultivating Partnerships for Healthy Urban Soils & Communities"
Recent soil tests of 125 gardens in the Dudley Street neighborhood have demonstrated dangerous lead contamination levels in 80% of gardens. For the past ten years, The Food Project has promoted sustainable urban agriculture practices as ways to reduce the environmental and human health risks posed by lead-contaminated soil. The Food Project has recently joined 62 Boston-based organizations from nine different sectors in launching the "Boston Food and Fitness Collaborative" to make Boston "America's Healthiest City by 2015". Partnering with the Boston Public Health Commission and the Shirley Eustis House, The Food Project is building an Urban Learning Farm, a center of nourishment that will model safe, urban agriculture and directly provide Roxbury neighborhoods with fresh, locally-grown produce. This project will educate over 800 people in the techniques of safe, chemical-free urban agriculture. They will provide education around the health risks posed by exposed urban soils and maintain their high-production farmland in the Dudley Street neighborhood and the new Urban Learning Farm where they will continue work to promote healthy eating for city residents.
Measurable Results: Expected results for the project include: Education to 150 elementary school children and 60 youth; enhancement of the Urban Learning Farm site; 50 gardeners engaged in these issues; increased knowledge for 60 backyard gardeners; a published article in the Boston Bay State Banner newspaper; a radio announcement; Distribution of compost to 60 community members; Participation of 60 individuals and organizations in the 2008 "Build-A-Garden" program.
Partners: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mosque for the Praising of Allah, Boston Public Health Commission, Shirley Eustis House Association, Emerson Elementary School, Wellesley College, Haley House.
Mattapan Community Development Corporation (Mattapan, MA)
Ending Lead Poisoning in Mattapan: Involving Youth in the Fight Against Lead
The Mattapan Community Development Corporation has been working since 1996 to ensure that local residents have access to healthy, affordable housing by focusing on economic, social, and environmental issues facing the community. Since 1993, the Lead Action Collaborative has been fighting to eliminate childhood lead poisoning throughout Boston. The two organizations are partners in a diverse and broad coalition working to implement the “Ending Lead Poisoning in Mattapan” project, which will identify and target families in high risk housing before poisonings occur and raise youth and family awareness of risks presented by lead and ways to prevent and reduce exposure. The project will educate and train Mattapan community youth on lead issues and train them to deploy the Community Assessment Tool (CAT) to evaluate exterior residential lead hazards and identify highest risk sites in the community for further action. A teacher from Mattapan Citizens School will be trained on lead and lead risks and will assist in school education, outreach and training throughout Mattapan to reach other teachers, students and families. Information on available lead poisoning and de-leading resources will be provided to families through neighborhood associations, community groups, and the press.
Measurable Results: CAT assessments of 1000 Mattapan properties and identification of remaining highest risk areas for childhood lead poisoning; measurable increase in teachers educated about lead and teaching students about lead risks; measurable reduction in elevated blood lead levels within the four local census tracts being targeted and throughout Boston neighborhoods.
Partners: Lead Action Collaborative, Mattapan Board of Trade, Colorado Street Citizens Group, Boston Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program