Mayor Tom Menino’s Lasting Food Legacy

Boston restaurant critic Corby Kummer looks back on all the ways the mayor helped shape Boston food initiatives.

The late Tom Menino will be remembered for many things, but as Boston magazine restaurant critic Corby Kummer points out in his latest article for The Atlantic, one of his greatest legacies will be his passion and drive to make affordable, healthy food available for all of Boston’s communities. In the article “The Mayor of Food,” Kummer breaks down the many ways in which Menino serviced the city with fresh produce and civic programs that benefited public health.

Launched in August 1986, Menino’s Bounty Bucks program—which doubled the value of WIC food coupons at community farmer’s markets—has since been embraced on a federal level with over 350 farmer’s markets participating nationwide. Menino also led a campaign to attract grocery stores to low-income neighborhoods, also known as “food deserts.” The mayor was proud of the fact that in his 20-plus years in office, he’d helped open 25 new grocery stores in the Boston-area and successfully fought to keep Walmart out of Roxbury.

Menino helped build a 2.5-acre organic garden on the grounds of Boston’s largest homeless shelter, opened up 40 parking spaces for the growing food truck movement, and helped raise funds for The Boston Public Market, which finally broke ground last month.

In the video above, Mayor Menino brought Kummer with him to Esperia Grill & Rotisserie, a family-operated Greek restaurant in Brighton. As co-director of Boston University’s Initiative on Cities, Menino began compiling a list of local, inexpensive lunch options that he would champion to friends, students, and anyone else who would listen.

The mayor loved food and proved that he was far ahead of his time when it came to promoting initiatives which would make Boston a progressive, healthier, and more diverse place to eat. Boston’s thriving dining scene, and the educated diners behind it, wouldn’t haven been possible without him.