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PROPOSAL: Community Foodways: A Multimedia Celebration of Growing, Cooking, and Eating in the Dudley Neighborhood

Monday, October 29, 2012 | Posted by Alex
Allison Daminger

Describe your project.
The current local food movement is so often associated with young, white entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s. At the same time, media coverage of low-income communities (often communities of color) tends to focus on the “obesity crisis” of these neighborhoods, highlighting the loss of cooking skills and dependency on fast food of many neighborhood residents. The Dudley neighborhood, however, flies in the face of this misconception: countless residents find creative ways to source healthy food—traveling to Haymarket to stock up on veggies, growing their own in urban farm-gardens, or purchasing from trucks that bring beans and corn directly down from New Hampshire farms—and to share both food and culinary knowledge with their neighbors. From extra vegetables grown in gardens and freely distributed, to the overripe fruit from corner markets that is handed over to seniors on limited incomes, the sharing of food creates and helps to cement reciprocal relationships central to this community.

Our multi-media project is a collaborative effort by staff at The Food Project and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. With the Dudley Greenhouse as our epicenter, we aim to document and celebrate Dudley’s underground foodways by alerting folks inside and outside the community to the incredible culinary and horticultural talent of local residents. Already we have taken a number of portraits of neighborhood growers and cooks that will form the base of the project. We will supplement these photos with formal and informal interviews, time spent with residents in their gardens and kitchens, and additional photos and video footage. The final product could take any number of forms: an exhibit in a public space such as the Haley House CafĂ©, a documentary to be screened at community events, or even a community cookbook complete with photos, stories, and recipes. We aim to let the message determine the medium, so that the creativity and compassion of Dudley’s cooks, gardeners, and food entrepreneurs shines through.

How will you use the grant?
The Feast Mass grant money would be used primarily to purchase equipment. In order to record high-quality interviews and conversations (good enough to potentially include in an exhibit or film), we will need to invest in recording equipment and microphones. We have access to a camera but will need lighting equipment and a tripod. Any leftover grant money would go toward the cost of producing the final product: renting a space, printing high-quality photos, and/or publicity.

Why and to whom is your project important?
The “food movement” often gets a bad rap for its supposed elitism. Community Foodways aims to show that there’s more to the story by bringing well-deserved (positive) attention to the gardeners, cooks, canners, and entrepreneurs of the Dudley neighborhood. We hope that community elders will be recognized as incredible sources of wisdom, and that younger growers and chefs will be celebrated for the innovative work they’re doing to build on Dudley’s rich history. Finally, we hope that those currently disconnected from the land and from their food will be inspired to forge new connections—thus only enhancing this neighborhood’s vibrancy.

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