Farmers markets can grow communities too
Guest blogger Aaron Goodman is the market master of the Eastside Farmers Market for the Warren/Conner Development Coalition.
Most people know that eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily is a key ingredient for keeping weight off, avoiding chronic disease and living a longer and healthier life. More often than not unfortunately, that knowledge does not translate into people making nutritious food choices. The convenience and accessibility of different kinds of food, its affordability, the ingrained preferences and eating habits of individuals, and knowledge of how to prepare healthy meals using fresh ingredients are all critical factors. The challenges of poor food accessibility and its impact on the health of residents in the City of Detroit have gained a lot of attention over the past few years. Whether Detroit is a food desert or more closely resembles a food grassland, it’s clear that more needs to be done to help make eating healthy convenient, affordable and even fun for Detroiters.
In neighborhoods across the city, local farmers markets, produce trucks, fresh food shares and other alternative food accessibility programs are working hard to fill the gaps in our food system. In order to raise the visibility of our work, over a dozen of these programs have partnered together to form the Detroit Community Markets network. The Eastside Farmers Market, which I manage, is a proud member.
The Eastside Farmers Market takes place each Saturday, 9am-2pm in the parking lot of Mack-Alter Square located at 14820 Mack Ave. Detroit, MI 48215. We are entering our fifth season of supporting local, small-scale growers and entrepreneurs while increasing access to fresh and healthy food for the community. The Eastside Farmers Market serves a largely low-income neighborhood and our shoppers have to be able to afford to purchase the more nutritious option before they can make that choice.
As do most of the Detroit Community Markets, the Eastside Farmers Market participates in all of the available food assistance programs. Our vendors accept payments with the Michigan Bridge Card (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WIC Market Fresh and Senior Fresh Coupons. We also participate in Double Up Food Bucks, an innovative incentive program that doubles Bridge Card holders’ buying power at farmers markets when they purchase Michigan grown fresh produce, a win-win proposition for everyone!
The Eastside Farmers Market is about much more than just selling food; we are building a community space where people can come together, learn new things, have some funTur and buy their groceries. Throughout the season we have presentations and workshops relating to healthy lifestyles, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment and games for kids. Thanks to a generous grant from the Project for Public Spaces, we have been able to improve the design and layout of the market and focus on making it a truly inviting and welcoming space for everyone.
Going to a farmers market is a completely different shopping experience then making a run to the grocery store. You run into your neighbors, talk to the people that grow and make your food, people watch, and just take in the sights and sounds of a vibrant market. The Eastside Farmers Market and all of the members of the Detroit Community Markets look forward to seeing you this season at our markets where you can find out what’s fresh!
Photo credit Aaron Goodman