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Meet Vivien Morris of Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vivien Morris.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition began as a community approach to improving the health of local residents. We are now in our eleventh year. By focusing on ways to increase access to healthy foods and opportunities for an active living we hoped to address the issues of obesity, cardiac disease, diabetes and many other chronic health conditions that were impacting our community. Our first activity was to begin the Mattapan Square Farmers Market. We invited local farmers to sell their produce and local health-promoting organizations (like Mattapan Community Health Center, the local WIC program, Mattapan Family Service Center, and many others) to utilize the market space for community health education. We soon added physical activity like Zuumba and cultural items like music and African drumming to our venue. This came to create a welcoming space for neighbors to gather, enjoy community, learn about healthy lifestyles, and access healthy foods. We also began promoting parks and green spaces, working to build local community gardens, revitalize parks, and advocating for the completion of the Mattapan section of the Neponset River Greenway. This beautiful walking and biking path was just completed in May 2017.

We are especially proud of the new Woolson Community Garden and a children’s garden at the Kennedy Playground. Over time, we have also come to understand the importance of community building, leadership development and youth empowerment. As part of leadership development, we partnered with the Boston Public Health Commission and the Boston Alliance for Public Health to train community members to be Healthy Community Champions. The Champions advocated for healthy foods in local stores, especially non-sugary beverages, held educational activities at a variety of venues throughout the community, and became leaders and advocates for increased physical activity, especially biking. We are very proud of the youth who comprise the youth wing of our organization, the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition Vigorous Youth. They created Mattapan’s first annual biking event, Mattapan on Wheels. Mattapan on Wheels just celebrated it’s 6th annual bike ride, with about 100 participants of all ages.

Has it been a smooth road?
As a volunteer organization, it sometimes is difficult to address all the important issues that we see in our community. We have been fortunate to have such dedicated members and supporters. Also, some projects have taken much longer than expected. We had been advocating for the completion of the Neponset River Greenway from the time of our inception, eleven years ago. We are overjoyed to see it completed and now to be able to encourage community members to utilize the space to safely walk and bike.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are known for our pride in the Mattapan community and our positive spirit. Every year we host an event entitled Mattapan Moving for Life, where we highlight the positive attributes of Mattapan that can be utilized to promote a healthy lifestyle – our parks and green spaces, our health institutions, our fitness instructors, nutritionists, farmers, artists, environmentalists, and more. We are very proud of our community overall, but especially of our youth.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition is a proud member of the Boston community. We have been fortunate to receive support from many public and private organizations in Boston. We would like to see more groups like ours in every neighborhood and will gladly support those efforts. Boston is, however, a very expensive city. Finding ways to pool resources to help volunteer driven non-profit organizations like ours would be very helpful.

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