Boston Food Justice Young Adult Volunteer – Ashley Earley

My name is Ashley Earley and I am serving as a Presbyterian Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in Boston this year and our focus is food justice. I will be posting periodically onto this blog about various food related topics for the next year.  First, I would like to introduce myself. I am from Rock Hill, SC (just south of Charlotte, NC) and graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in May with a bachelors in biology and a minor in math. I am currently taking a gap year before going to graduate school for a master’s in plant biology and afterwards plan to go into research. I have never been to the New England area before, but I am so far really enjoying my time in Boston.

For this year, I am serving at First Presbyterian Church in Brookline and at a non-profit called Woman and Girls Thriving in Brookline with a focus in the Healthy Food and Lifestyle working group. My role will be to learn and educate about food justice.

Also as part of the program we will be participating in two different food challenges. From September to the end of January is the local eating challenge and February to the end of July is the SNAP (food stamp) challenge.

How Local is Local?

From September to the end of January the other two Boston YAVs and I participating in a local food challenge. What does that mean for us? All of our food must be grown in New England (Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) or New York. This includes all fruits and vegetables, but also flour, oats, dairy, and all other products with only a few exceptions. We are allowed to buy fair trade or direct trade coffee, tea, and chocolate during the challenge and can choose 4 exceptions. We decided to quinoa, nuts, tofu, and mushrooms. These items do not have to be local which helps out a lot by providing us with a grain and some additional sources of protein since we will be eating primarily vegetarian. Some exceptions are also made for things like olive oil to cook our food, lemon juice to use when we begin canning, and necessary spices that are not grown locally.

Local vegetables

Some of the local vegetables frozen to eat in the winter.

Luckily Boston has numerous farmers markets and local farms that sale any produce that grows in the area and that is in season. In addition, we are able to buy things like local honey, syrup, salt, that will be helpful throughout the first half of the year. We will be cooking all of our own meals from now until the end of January. Part of this includes baking our own bread and making our own pasta. The biggest challenges we have run into so far is the amount of time it takes to grocery shop and plan meals when all things must be local. In order for us to have a variety of food this winter we have been freezing tomato sauce, peppers, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and fruit as well as canned tomatoes for use in things like soups and chili.

For more information on the Boston Food Justice YAV Program:

To read my blog: