Lunch on the Lawn
Come by City Hall Plaza from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. every weekday to grab a free lunch. No registration or identification required – just show up! Meals will be served on a first-come, first-served basis each day. The program starts on Monday, July 9, and ends on Friday, August 24.
Spending your lunch time somewhere else in the City? The Summer Eats 2018 website has an address search and map.
About the program
We want to make it easy for youth to access a free, healthy meal right in downtown Boston.
Many young people work in or around City Hall during the summer. Children walk through the Government Center area with their families on their way to Faneuil Hall and other downtown destinations.
- playing a quick game on the Lawn
- enjoying Tuesday Tunes on the Plaza brought to you by Berkshire Bank, or
- simply walking through the Lawn on a summer afternoon.
The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics created Lunch on the Lawn in the summer of 2017. With Lunch on the Lawn, the office continued its efforts to make City Hall Plaza a welcoming space for all Bostonians. They wanted the young people living, visiting, and working in downtown Boston to have easy access to nutritious food during the summer.
New Urban Mechanics worked with each department at City Hall that hires youth employees for the summer. They wanted them to spread the word among their youth employees. They also partnered with the Boston Private Industry Council to inform more than 3,000 students at Agganis Arena during their summer jobs orientation.
The MBTA put up signs in Government Center and State Street T stations about the program. The site was also advertised in the Metro newspaper, along with the other more than 120 open sites around the City sponsored by Boston Public Schools. New Urban Mechanics summer fellows also helped. They walked around the Plaza with a large sign, inviting kids to grab a lunch and enjoy the games and picnic tables on the Plaza.
The meals were free to all young people 18 or under without any registration or ID required. But, there was concern that there might be some stigma associated with a free meal program. To reduce that barrier, New Urban Mechanics had a rotating series of programs:
- They brought out art supplies for children to make fridge art.
- They held two “VR Days,” highlighting some of the Imagine Boston 2030 launch party 360-degree videos on virtual reality headsets.
- They continued their Love Letters to Boston experiment. This experiment asks people to write about where they like to go in Boston to relax, or when they’re feeling happy.
- In the last three weeks of the program, they ran a mini-experiment with fun stickers (spoiler alert: it was a hit!).
- Finally, they partnered with many agencies to bring their activities down to Lunch on the Lawn, including ReadBoston, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Boston Planning and Development Agency.
More than 1,000 meals were served to young people under 18 in summer 2017. Yet, New Urban Mechanics talked with an even larger group of people than that. Many had never heard about the citywide summer meals program, though there are more than 100 sites throughout Boston neighborhoods each summer.
Youth groups came through City Hall Plaza on their way to take a tour of City Hall. Nearby day care centers walked by with younger kids in buddy lines, enjoying their afternoon stroll on the plaza. Families from out of town came by on their way to or from historic Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. During the summer, we talked with more than 5,000 people.
New Urban Mechanics wants to continue to make the City Hall space welcoming to all. They want to connect young people to the space, and build relationships that last generations.
There was one audience New Urban Mechanics wasn't planning for, but ended up being a frequent diner. The group was young children coming into City Hall with their families to take care of some personal business, like paying a parking ticket or taxes. This seemingly negative interaction with City government turned into a pleasant, helpful one.
Countless families grab meals for their children on their way out of City Hall. They would then sit at the picnic tables, enjoying the weather and the games on the lawn. We know that “breaking bread” helps people build community and relationships — perhaps with your City government, too?CHOICE IS DELIGHTFUL
Many times, New Urban Mechanics was able to offer two or three lunch options. It was clear that younger children enjoyed the sense of control they felt in choosing what to eat. For older youth, the program accommodated a wider variety of dietary preferences.
When New Urban Mechanics introduced stickers at the fridge, young children loved being able to select the sticker that most delighted them. Lunch on the Lawn seemed to help change people’s minds about what kind of (positive) experiences they might expect from their interactions with City Hall.