A Little Word on the Boston Local Food Festival

Bringing local foods to the community supports the economy, and healthful eating habits. This is the message carried by those involved with the Boston Local Food Festival.

The Rose Kennedy Greenway today was flooded with 40,000 vendors, chefs, exhibitors, and local participants, all gathered to share and support local products and sustainable living. Now in its third year, the Boston Local Food Festival is a zero-waste event dedicated to building the local economy and feeding a healthier community. Developed by the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts, its primary goal is to share the virtues of eating local products, of minimizing waste, and of increasing the accesibility of healthy, local food to all socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages.

Chef Demonstrations, such as the one by Chef Josh Lewin of Beacon Hill Bistro, taught viewers how to harvest local ingredients for their plate (Goosefoot, for example, is a weed that grows in abundance in Massachusetts, and makes a great sustainable substitute for spinach – the sample Lewin brought in was picked right off of Beacon St.) Lewin was also serving up a beautiful crab apple and parsnip soup for lunch, indicative of his restaurant’s focus on local foods and vegetarian options.

Katrina Kazda, Managing Director of SBN, commented on the value of the demonstrations. “…Learning valuable take home skills can have a longer lasting impact,” she said, rather than simply tasting and purchasing local produce.

Specialty vendors gathered to share their goods, and many offered delectable samples. I was blown away by a variety of gluten-free and vegan macaroons by the very recently launched Arzi Foods. Their organic sweets were full of flavor, and good-for-you raw ingredients I couldn’t wait to share. My roommate and I love the natural coconut-based Organic Cashew and Caco Nib CocoBonbons I had the privilege of bringing home.

These gluten-free, raw, vegan treats from Arzi Foods are packed with nutrients and delicious flavors.

In a DIY demonstration, nutritionist and food writer PK Newby shared the secrets to making healthy salad dressings. Her Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with dried cranberries, roasted onions, mixed greens, used a housemade Maple Dijon Vinaigrette, and showcased local, seasonal ingredients.

Newby had a lot of helpful tips for leading a healthy lifestyle, while supporting local producers and without sacrificing any flavor. With her blog, The Nutrition Doctor is in the Kitchen, Newby is sharing advice on nutrition, fitness, weight management – all backed by science. Her recipes are health-conscious, and, as I tasted at the demonstration, delicious. So good, I went home and made the squash salad for dinner using her recipe for a homemade dressing. Because you’re controlling the ingredients, you can keep down the levels of sodium and sugar. “Convenience is a big thing,” Newby admitted. “We all want food to be convenient.” But, as she goes on to explain, taking the time to gather your unprocessed ingredients is healthier, and better for the local community.

This delicious salad features one of fall’s favorite ingredients, butternut squash, and is dressed with a housemade Maple Dijon Vinaigrette – high in healthy fatty acids, with no added sugar and preservative-free, this dressing adds intense flavor to any dish.

The day focused on sharing delicious, good-for-you foods, while local artists provided a vibrant musical backdrop. Farmers and artisans from across New England came to display their foods, and local companies came to share their message. The Boston Vegetarian Society attended to raise awareness for their own food festival, occurring at the end of October. City Feed and Supply came to sell their local foods and groceries, and Ocean Approved was serving up delicious, gluten-free kale slaw from one of their first winter harvests. Compost initiatives, green energy, and health education were also promoted at the festival.

As festival volunteer Angela Dewar said, “It’s so easy to make a small difference…it impacts everyone else.” Whether you’re supporting your local farmer by buying his or her tomato, rather than a tomato from Shaws, (an example offered by Glenn Gobeille of Associated Buyers) or minimizing the impact you have on the environment by chosing a plant-based diet, (another word of advice from PK Newby), there are a dozen and more small life choices you can make every day to help build a sustainable, healthy community.

Until next time, I’d like to thank PK Newby, Arzi Foods, Josh Lewin from Beacon Hill Bistro, Glenn Gobeille from Associated Buyers, Whitney with City Feed, Katrina Kazda from SBN and everyone else who took the time to speak with me today.

To read my full article recapping the event, click here!

And of course, a thank you to the Sustainable Business Network, for developing this zero-waste festival and sharing their vision for “Healthy Local Food for All.” Because that’s just about the best bite of all.