Alumna Lucia Ravens combats food insecurity through art, social media

A lettuce donation crate is pictured. Courtesy Lucia Ravens

Despite limitations on museums and art galleries because of the pandemic, artists Lucia Ravens (MFA’16) and Ned Carlson have found a way to promote art for a social cause.

On World Environment Day, Lucia Ravens launched #FlowerFeedFlourish, a global social media movement that educates communities about gardening to tackle food insecurity. 

“The goal of the project is to cultivate farm-fresh flowers and vegetables to deliver to local food banks …  to encourage support of food banks worldwide to champion regenerative agriculture, to exchange knowledge and to document the project on Instagram to raise awareness about how the pandemic has [affected] food insecurity in our local, national and global communities,” Ravens, who earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2016, wrote in an email to the Daily.

During quarantine, Ravens learned that numerous seed companies worldwide were running out of seeds because they had received so many orders. Ravens, who normally plants a garden every year, began to think about what could be done with the produce being grown by households during the pandemic.

“I started to think, ‘Well, if there’s going to be so many gardens all around the world, imagine all that produce,” Ravens said. “As we were journeying through the pandemic, [I thought] ‘Well, wait, there’s that much, I think I’ll make my garden that much bigger, and I’ll donate the produce,’” Ravens said. That’s how Flower Feed Flourish began.

Courtesy Lucia Ravens

Ravens’ garden, which is organic and practices regenerative agriculture, has gained international attention as people from around the world join the hashtag #FlowerFeedFlourish and follow the project on Instagram. 

Now, the Tufts alumna hopes to further Flower Feed Flourish’s social media presence, to garner support within the United States and across countries to build global solidarity for the movement. To that end, as Flower Feed Flourish’s platform is entirely digital, it leveraged increased social media activity during quarantine. 

Ravens highlighted the difficulties the pandemic poses, as well as the potential it offers.

“There are challenges during this COVID-19 crisis, but it is important to turn those challenges into teachable moments and use our creativity to plan effectively to build back our communities stronger than they were before,” Ravens wrote. “A positive outlook can go a long way during these times. It is a new world we are living in today, I believe it’s best to look at the challenges as opportunities to come together in solidarity and support.”

Courtesy Lucia Ravens

Even though Flower Feed Flourish is relatively new, it has already taken root in the Tufts community. Soon after kick starting her project, Ravens was joined by Ned Carlson, a Tufts-SMFA dual degree student from the Class of 2023.

Carlson, who spearheaded the Boxed Art Gallery, an online art gallery highlighting work by members of the Tufts community, was connected to Ravens through Ryan Smith, a career adviser for the arts

With environmental art that already focuses on climate change, Carlson’s interests fit nicely with Ravens’ work. He has enjoyed getting more involved with the community focus Flower Feed Flourish, though. 

Carlson, now an intern for the project, is responsible for reaching out to people and artists on social media to get them involved with #FlowerFeedFlourish. He has been warmly welcomed into Ravens’ studio. 

“Ned is talented, his artistic giftedness comes with the determination to pose creative challenges for himself to meet as he spends time in nature … Social and environmental causes and his interest in climate change action are critical issues, as he develops his artistic voice at Tufts and within this internship,” Ravens wrote.

Ravens hopes her partnership with Carlson will incentivize other Tufts SMFA alumni to collaborate with current students.

Carlson and Ravens agree that their backgrounds as artists have informed their current work with Flower Feed Flourish. The project is “an artistic gesture,” as Ravens knows her garden is not going to produce enough to tackle the broad issue of food insecurity. Rather, it’s about influencing others to take action. Both Jumbos are certain the Tufts community has been vital for the project’s success. 

Ravens pointed out the importance of the Institute of the Environment’s practice to send delegates to represent the university at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) annual Conference of the Parties (COP). 

“I felt very privileged that as a Tufts alum that I could have that door, through Tufts’s Institute of the Environment, to go and attend these programs,” Ravens said. 

Carlson mentioned it was because of this partnership with the United Nations that he discovered Flower Feed Flourish, adding that he and Ravens aim to “to develop another vibrant artistic voice” for himself and other undergraduate students at Tufts for future UNFCCC conferences. 

Having earned institutional support for Flower Feed Flourish, the organizers are now planning an art panel discussion at the UNFCCC at the COP 26. 

“I really think that we can be pioneers to start that conversation on an international level,” Ravens said.

Courtesy Lucia Ravens

Ravens and Carlson aim to prompt Tufts students to take action locally, as food insecurity is an issue that affects Medford and Somerville and has been heightened by the pandemic. 

“Higher retail prices, combined with reduced incomes, mean more and more households are having to cut down on the quantity and quality of their food consumption, with potentially lasting impacts on nutrition and health,” Carlson said. 

The stress the pandemic places on food security for many families reveals the urgency for communities to take action, according to Carlson.

“One of the reasons I’m so interested in the project is because Tufts is situated in a historically lower income area around Boston. But the people at Tufts in general are fairly well off, so it’s an interesting contrast and definitely a lot of people don’t know or are not aware of what’s going on,” Carlson said. 

Carlson suggested that Tufts students take action by donating to food banks around the university and the Boston area.

“By initiating the conversation about hunger action, the goal is to raise awareness of the issue of food insecurity. The hope is the #FlowerFeedFlourish project will influence action; to fundraise, to volunteer and especially to donate to your local food-banks,” Ravens said.

Food banks in the Somerville/Medford area include:

Medford Farmers Market (Condon Shell, Mystic Valley Pkwy, Medford, Massachusetts)

Project Soup (165 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02145)

Mystic Community Market (291 Mystic Ave, Medford, MA 02155)

Food Distribution Center – Food Cupboard – UU Church of Medford, (147 High St, Medford, MA 02155)

Food Distribution Center – Northeast Food System Partnership (132 Curtis St, Medford, MA 02155)

Food Distribution Center – Outside The Lines (70 Colby St, Medford, MA 02155)

Tufts Mutual Aid Food Pantry located Hillside Community Church (144 North St, Medford, MA 02155)