Meaghan Overton

2012 Rappaport Public Policy Fellow

May 24, 2012
Graduate School:Tufts University
Undergraduate School:Hollins University
Areas of interest:Food policy and economic development
Mentors:Larry DiCara, Nixon Peabody and Brandy Brooks, The Food Project
Placement:Office of Business Development, Department of Neighborhood Development, City of Boston
Supervisors: Rafael Carbonell, Deputy Director and Bik Ng, Senior Business Manager
Project Description:This summer Meaghan worked with the Boston Main Streets program in the City of Boston’s Office of Business Development on a pilot initiative to support farmers’ markets in Boston Main Streets Districts. Boston Main Streets began in 1995 as an innovative program to encourage community economic development, historic preservation, and neighborhood revitalization. Over the last 17 years, Boston Main Streets has helped generate over 4,000 jobs and supported the creation of more than 700 new businesses in Boston’s neighborhoods. But the Main Streets program is about more than opening new bricks-and-mortar stores. To create healthier, more livable communities, many Main Streets Districts have become active partners in other community activities and programs. For her summer fellowship, Meaghan worked with three Boston Main Streets Districts that were interested in growing their farmers’ markets.
Research has suggested that farmers’ markets provide many benefits to local communities, including increased access to healthy food and enhanced economic activity in the areas surrounding farmers' markets. However, farmers' markets must generate adequate foot traffic and sales for vendors if they are to remain vibrant centers of community economic activity. In addition, many markets struggle to comply with local and state regulations. The Boston Main Streets markets were no exception. To address the needs of these markets, she completed several projects during the course of her fellowship. She collected data on attendance, customer spending, and vendor sales at each market to give market managers better information about the current state of their farmers’ markets. She also completed a permitting and licensing roadmap that will become a useful market planning tool on the Boston Business Hub. Finally, she worked with each Main Streets Director to increase promotion of the markets through print and social media.
Meaghan says "The Rappaport Fellowship was an amazing experience for me. I began my fellowship with the simple goal of learning more about how policy-making works in the 'real' world. After working closely with my supervisors and meeting with policymakers in various City departments, I think that I have developed a much deeper understanding of municipal government and a greater appreciation for the importance of collaboration in policy development and implementation. I met so many dedicated people who were looking for new ways to improve quality of life for residents in Boston. The Rappaport Fellowship also provided me with the incredible opportunity to connect with my peers from other disciplines and universities. It has been inspiring to learn about the work that other fellows are doing, and I’ve appreciated the rare chance to learn from others outside of a classroom setting."