Boston has a grocery market you'll be jealous of, and it's not owned by a giant corporation.

Farmers markets are fun, but let's admit it: Sometimes it's just easier to go the supermarket.

Most farmers markets only setup shop once or twice a week for just a few hours at a time. They're always fun to visit, of course, and the atmosphere from the buzzing crowds and live music certainly add to the experience. But they're not always convenient in terms of time or location, and you're left at the whim at whatever food just happens to be at that particular farmers market on that specific day. (This is especially true if, like me, you live in the frigid Northeast).

Sure, you tell yourself you like to shop local — we all wanna support the community, right? — but, well, Stop & Shop is always there and is always stocked with everything you need (unless you're looking for asparagus water, in which case, I'm sure there's a Whole Foods right around the corner).


But there's good news for my fellow Bostonians: We can now buy locally-sourced and independent foodstuff all year round in one convenient spot.

The brand new Boston Public Market is the “most local" food market in America (not to be confused with Boston Market, formerly known as Boston Chicken, which is not).

Located right in the heart of downtown Boston, the Market houses 37 different vendors, selling everything from farm-fresh produce to grass-fed meat and poultry to wine and beer and coffee and chocolate and even a few craft artisans.

All photos by Thom Dunn/Upworthy.

Every single vendor comes from independent companies based right in New England ( the average distance from the farms to the market is 30 miles). Even the interior of the building was constructed from recycled, donated New England barn board, and it's managed by the Boston Public Market Association, a locally-run and independent nonprofit organization, in partnership with the city of Boston.

Inside you'll find everything from giant carrots, onions, potatoes, and apples.

And fancy Italian artisan cheeses.

There's even a literal chocolate bar, which is exactly what it sounds like.

The Boston Public Market puts working-class people at the center of history (and the tourist industry).

Did you know that for every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $48 of that gets recycled right back into the local economy? Chain stores, meanwhile, only end up giving about $14 out of every $100 back to the community (mostly just in the form of employee wages).

That's one of the most wonderful parts about the Boston Public Market: It's not just selling fresh, local food and employing local retail staff, it's a self-sustaining economic stimulus for the entire community.

The Market is in the heart of Boston's tourist district, meaning even out-of-towners will probably find themselves there.

The Market is located right next to Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market, which is essentially the tourist epicenter for the city of Boston. Which, like most tourist spots, is more of a recreation of local life than it is someplace where local people actually go (it does have some cool historical pedigree, though).

But Boston Public Market provides tourists with a much more authentic vision of the hard-working people who make up the whole New England region and ensures the money those tourists spend directly supports those very same people.

Ye Olde New Englande Cidre Presse. Photo by Lord Thomas Padraig Theodosius Dunn the 1st of Bostonia/Upworthy.

But The Market isn't just about making money. It's about making good food available for everyone, regardless of the cost.

Look, getting some of that tourist money back into the local economy is great. Tourists are there to spend on one-time treats. But tourists and middle- to upper-class locals aren't the only consumers the Market is trying to invite in.

People who use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits can shop here as well, meaning both local vendors and local consumers (of all socioeconomic backgrounds) benefit from the Boston Public Market.


LOOK AT ALL THOSE VEGGIES. Sorry this one is a little blurry, I got excited.

In addition to accepting SNAP benefits, the Boston Bounty Bucks program offers a dollar-for-dollar match up to $10 for families who rely on assisted living programs when they shop at certain farmers markets, including the Boston Public Market.

Families who use SNAP benefits can spend $10 on some cheap, over-processed canned meals at Stop & Shop or spend $20 on fresh, local, organic food at the farmers market and provide their families with wholesome, delicious, and much more nutritious meals (plus that $20 goes to support local food workers and stimulate the local economy, which is a nice added bonus).

In the press release announcing the program, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called the program “a defining moment for food accessibility in the City of Boston. Not only will this partnership increase access to healthy, fresh food for Boston residents, but it will also stimulate our local economy while supporting area farmers."

WORD, Marty. WORD. I knew I liked you for a reason ( even if you did declare Godsmack Day last summer).

While the Boston Public Market is currently the only one of its kind, hopefully other cities will soon follow suit.

Massachusetts has a history of leading the country in progressive values, from marriage equality to universal health care to the Red Sox (OK, c'mon, I had to). American culture largely has been shifting from the anonymous big chain model back to the idea of " slow food" and wholesome, hand-crafted artisan cuisines that emphasize local and ethical ingredients.

There's no reason other cities can't start their own public markets just like the one in Boston — instead of, say, building another Whole Foods to complete the wave of gentrification (eerily, the photo in that link is actually my neighborhood Whole Foods). Let's get back to building communities that support sustainable living and each other.

Not to pat ourselves on the back too too much, but if Boston can put up with 4 to 6 feet of snow each winter and still get a public market up and running by the summer, you other cities have no excuse not to do the same.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less