Winter 2016

Market Maker

Serving up local groceries year-round

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Mackenzie Sehlke, N13, is the only nutritionist on staff at the Boston Public Market. Photo: John Soares

Last summer, the Boston Public Market, the first all-local, year-round, indoor market of its kind in the country, opened its doors. It is a great experiment in supporting small farmers and fishermen while providing healthy food to city residents, and Mackenzie Sehlke, N13, is helping it all come to life.

As part of the small staff of the nonprofit behind the market, she helped recruit the vendors, who offer everything from pasture-raised poultry to unpasteurized juice, from vinegar to chocolate. And yes, touring their farms and kitchens and sampling their wares has been a highlight of the job.

But beyond that, Sehlke—the only nutritionist on staff—has had a hand in overseeing the market’s many programs, managing its USDA grants, and promoting it as a place for recipients of food stamps (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to pick up groceries; more than 1,500 of the market’s products are SNAP-eligible.

Although the market has many goals for health promotion and education, helping local small businesses grow is its main mission. She says it has been fun seeing the vendors come up with new ways to draw in customers. At the Jasper Hills Farm stall, she says, a customer can buy a piece of cloth-bound cheddar, a cheese board to take to a party, or just a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. “It’s an amazing way of getting small producers to optimize their margins,” she says.

She also enjoys watching the vendors inspire each other. The George Howell coffee stall started offering mocha made from nearby Taza’s chocolate, and Beantown Pastrami began serving Chestnut Farms eggs on their sandwiches in the morning.

“Those are cool, interesting, new things that didn’t exist before they all kind of hung out together,” she says. Local helping local can be a tasty thing.

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