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Remember 'Shutter Island'? Now it's an urban farm for low-income families.

After years of vacancy, this island is returning to its original 1600s purpose as a farm.

Remember 'Shutter Island'? Now it's an urban farm for low-income families.

You might recognize Boston's Long Island as the basis for the thriller movie and book "Shutter Island."

Based on a Dennis Lehane novel and set in an isolated asylum in the Boston Harbor, the movie is probably best remembered as Leonardo DiCaprio's second theatrical attempt at a Boston accent, for better or for worse.

Photo via ENTRTNMNT/YouTube.


In real life, though, the 225-acre Long Island has served a number of interesting purposes over the years.

Local Native American tribes used it as a farm when the English settlers first arrived in the 1600s. And yes, it was once home to a mental institution — though not quite as intense as the one depicted in the movie.

But over the years, the island has also functioned as a military fort, a hotel and resort, a refuge base for ex-Nazi scientists, a home for unwed mothers, and an addiction rehab center.

Photo by Doc Searls/Flickr.

For nearly 20 years, until 2014, the island even served as the city's largest homeless shelter.

It once housed more than 700 people. But it wasn't just any shelter: Residents also worked a large farm plot while they lived there, growing their own food and learning crucial new skills for after they left the island.

However, in 2014, city engineers condemned the only bridge out to the island as being unstable. And as a result, people without homes and in recovery were rushed off the island and into various group homes on the mainland, leaving farm fields, equipment, and other facilities abandoned.

Photo by Monika Schroeder/B.good, used with permission.

But now, after several years of vacancy, Long Island has returned to its original 1600s purpose as a farm ... with a clever modern twist.

It all started when a local restaurant chain called B.good screwed up while catering a 700-person event for Camp Harbor View, which creates summer programs that cater to at-risk Boston youth from low-income communities. B.good co-founder Jon Olinto figured that he owed an apology and a personal visit to the organizers of the event.

But when he went to speak with the staff at Camp Harbor View, Olinto ended up in discussion about the potential for that abandoned farm on Long Island instead, where the camp used to host some of their programs.

"It was all about, how we can build community, how can we keep this relationship," Olinto said. "It was never about, 'We can launch a farm.' I mean, getting on a boat? That's ridiculous." (Yes, the bridge is still out, so all transportation for now to and from the island is done by boat.)

Photo by Monika Schroeder/B.good, used with permission.

The Hannah Farm project came together fast and furiously.

The main idea was simple: B.good would take over management of the three acres of abandoned farmland on Long Island to grow a wide range of produce, from green and yellow beans to cherry tomatoes to kale and beets and radishes and herbs.

During the summer, they'd also be helped by local teenagers through Camp Harbor View. The teens would help out around the farm while also learning skills for potential future employment.

The summer camp aspect of the program would include a "Farm Club," where campers would learn how to prepare wholesome and delicious meals from the produce that they themselves had farmed. And campers would be provided with breakfast and lunch while working on the farm, too.

75% of the food grown at Hannah Farms would go to the working teenagers and other low-income families in the area, with the other 25% going to local B.good restaurants.

Photo by Monika Schroeder/B.good, used with permission.

The farm's first harvest at the end of August 2016 provided nearly 700 pounds of food to over 250 low-income families. And that was just the beginning.

Due to a late start, Olinto only expects about 20,000 pounds of produce by the end of the first fall harvest. But he fully expects to double that in 2017.

"At the core of B.good from the beginning, we've always tried to do something positive and I think we have a history for that," Olinto said.

In the future, they also plan to partner with Fair Foods, a long-running Boston-based nonprofit that sells fresh, affordable produce to families in low-income areas. And they'll continue their "Farm Club" food education program through the school year, too, as part of a new teen center initiative in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.

Photo by Monika Schroeder/B.good, used with permission.

Can a for-profit company do good, help others, and help themselves? Olinto believes it's possible.

"Entrepreneurial spirit creates change, and it can be a force for good," he says. "And I hope in some small way that there can be a model for how companies can help improve communities."

For the hundreds of families being fed by the once-defunct farm on the former Shutter Island, that mission is certainly making a difference.

Check out what the folks at B.good are up to, below:

Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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