Share with Charlottesville

I hope National Farmers Market Week was productive in your area. I hope your market received great support both from your community’s producers and its shoppers. I hope the media covered whatever event you hosted at your market. Good job everyone on spreading the news of our continued and expanding impacts.

Unfortunately, this was not the case for at least one market last weekend: the Charlottesville City Market, which was open for business on Saturday during the tragic events that happened two blocks away. Vendors and shoppers had courageously decided to show up, knowing the tense build-up over the past few days to the scheduled rally that afternoon. The market was attempting to do once again what it has done for many years: connect and comfort its citizens through the shared love of regional food and the championing of local creative output.

Instead, the name of its town is currently synonymous with riots and murder and the safety of its downtown with its lovely parks and pedestrian mall will be questioned, as it is likely to be threatened by more events like the ones that the world watched with horror last weekend.

I know this market. I have shopped there, gathered data there and discussed the hopes and dreams of its organizers and its vendors when there. It is like a great many of our markets across the country, located on underused weekend space, open to anyone and everyone, full of gorgeous produce and hand-crafted items proudly displayed by its makers. It is managed by the city and has been operating since the early 1970s, making it a “first wave” markets in my timeline of market eras.

This is what one regular market goer, William J. Antholis, Director and CEO of the Miller Center at UVA wrote about the market on this day:

My wife and I took our daughters for a walk around the protests, four blocks south (of their home), to the farmer’s market on the other side of the historic, pedestrian-only Downtown Mall. Immediately, we felt the sense of danger as fully armed white supremacist protestors walked dangerously close to counter-protestors. Taunts were already being hurled in both directions.

When we arrived at the market, we were surprised to find it eerily quiet. The market is usually packed on a Saturday morning. Row after row of beautiful heirloom tomatoes sat undisturbed, in a rainbow array of colors. Bread stands and coffee stands and local artisans had plenty of product, and not enough customers.

Stacy Miller, Farmers Market Coalition’s former Executive Director, has lived in Charlottesville for six years and is among the vendors at Charlottesville
City Market. Nervous about the potential for violence (and anticipating a slow
sales day, she said), she withdrew her participation several days before.

Several other vendors shared messages of solidarity and commitment to be there ‘come hell or high water’ on our public Facebook group. One said, specifically, “We won’t stand down for these terrorists! They come to our town uninvited and unwanted!… We will stand our grounds, with our fellow vendors and friends, against fascism, against xenophobia, against oppression!” While I certainly shared the sentiment, and I made sure to visit the market early to do my own shopping and wish good luck to those still setting up, I was eager to get back home, readying for other plans later that day. A helicopter (which may have been the same one crashing later that day) was already circling loudly overhead and would become my background noise nearly all day, as we barricaded into our little apartment. Thankfully, my husband was not working at the hospital that day, and we updated each other from various media sources, texts, and Twitter as things escalated, with photos of Nazis “indiscriminately” beating black youths in a parking garage. As my son napped (and, presumably, dreamed) 20 feet away, we quietly watched jerky, just-taken videos and photos of the black Charger with Ohio plates plowing through people on the downtown mall four blocks away, at an intersection I walked almost daily.”

When I read those quotes, I have to confess I had a little PTSD from my days of organizing New Orleans’ markets during hurricane seasons. As a matter of fact, on the Saturday before the landfall of Katrina our market manager, Tatum Evans was off so I was in charge of the day. The newscasters had told us on Thursday that the storm was to veer to Florida and any impact in the city would be negligible, so at that point, most locals stopped watching hour by hour updates.
Of course, since I was managing a market, I continued to monitor the weather and noticed the size of the storm and the lack of major movement eastward. I called vendors on Friday and told them they had the option of staying home, with no rent penalties for missing the day. Still, most showed up and as the day wore on, the tension in and around the market was palpable and the small number of shoppers also obvious. Stories of lines forming for gas and of panic rising around the city began to weigh on me and on our Executive Director Richard McCarthy who was calling me every half hour. Finally at 10:30, I closed the market.

I tell you that because as a result of that and other tense mornings in New Orleans, I felt the market’s anxiety in Charlottesville all the way down here in Louisiana, and I am sure many of you did too.

The use of public space for a public market is a heavy responsibility. Not only does one have to manage tender young businesses and seasoned ones side by side, but also shoulder the responsbility of managing risks of slip and falls, theft, disagreements, weather, dog bites and more crop up constantly.
And this last weekend, we saw once again that even when all of that is managed well, the danger around a market can still overwhelm its good intentions and positive vibe. (Update from C-ville market folks: The market was finally forced to close early because of the nearing clashes and the helicopters circling right overhead, making it impossible to communicate.)

I don’t really have a lesson to impart here. I just wanted to send my admiration to the Charlottesville City Market, to its manager Justin and to the entire team at the market, to its hard working vendors and its loyal shoppers and tell them that to me, YOU are Charlottesville. You are what I think about even as your city’s name is plastered across every news site and linked forever to a very, very bad day in American history.
I know that your market will once again become the center of health, wealth and good civic engagement. As a matter of fact, you will become that as early as next Saturday.
People will gather and hug and probably shed some tears in your lot. They will ask vendors how they are and vendors will ask that of their shoppers. Shoppers will tell vendors they hope they remain committed to coming to their downtown market and vendors will ask the same of their shoppers. The very best of what we do with farmers markets will become evident to everyone in Charlottesville over the next few weeks and months. Media will come to show “normal” activity returning and the market will know to embrace that opportunity and use it to encourage people to leave their homes and connect once again on Saturday mornings.
I know this because it is what happened to us during those months of darkness in 2005-2010.
And I know I was changed because of the love and care that the market community showed everyone here. I believe that markets do something that few other entities or ideas do in modern America: they build and keep community across age, background, political divides and socioeconomic status. I am proud to be part of that.
So let’s send out some good community energy to our friends in Charlottesville; I guarantee they’ll appreciate it.

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After gastric bypass surgery, many experience eating difficulties

About 71 percent of the gastric bypass group, compared with 17 percent of the others, could not tolerate certain items, including red meat and foods high in fat or sugar. Water was not tolerated by about 7 percent of those who had had gastric bypass, vs. none of the others. The researchers found no link between the amount of weight people had lost and the digestive problems. Link to story

Markets could put small lists of available products together for different users of their market, including those who have digestive problems. It’s important to remember that many of these folks are just beginning to understand their problems, learning what works and doesn’t. I remember how, after my gallbladder surgery in 2007, I had to figure out what needed to come off my shopping list. It was through trial and error and asking a lot of questions and reading a lot of information that I was able to understand what worked best for me, but in the meantime, I had to give away or throw away some items I bought at first which used to be fine for me but were no longer. Another reason why vendors offering small “sample” amounts of different items can be a great way to invite new visitors (or newly fragile shoppers)  to become regular, return shoppers.

I know of at least one market outreach program that focused on these patients – the wonderful North Union Farmers Markets in my original hometown of Cleveland Oh.

Their frittata project is one of my favorite programs to pull out of my sleeve when markets ask me about ideas for working with obese or recently obese populations. (These programs make me seem smart even though what I really am is well-traveled.) Their project is shared with many other types of healthy food clients too, but I was really taken by the idea they had of working with bariatric patients through the Cleveland Clinic system.

 

More on their project:

The Frittata Project teaches young mothers (and fathers!) how to cook a nutritious meal on a budget to feed their family. The food used in the recipes we teach can be bought at our markets for around $10 (the amount we match in produce perks for EBT-SNAP/Ohio Direction Card). Workshops and demonstrations bring families together to learn how to sustain a nutritious diet while staying within their economic constraints. Our aim is to foster relationships in the community by empowering individuals to make informed decisions about the food they purchase while having the skills to prepare it. In addition to those on EBT-SNAP (Electronic Benefits Transfer- Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program) and WIC (Women and Infant Children), the program is also open to senior citizens who participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program by the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging.

Our signature frittatas include farm fresh eggs, local grated cheese, a dash of grass-fed cow’s milk, and sautéed spinach seasoned with salt and pepper.

Students go home with not only new skills in the kitchen, but with cooking supplies (pan and spatula) and gift certificates for fresh and local produce from the farmers markets.

‘More on the history of this flagship market organization can be found here.

 

FINI report, Year 1

In Year one, FINI supported incentive programs at almost 1,000 farmers markets, representing 4,000 direct marketing farmers in 27 states. These farmers market programs alone generated almost $8 million in SNAP and incentive sales spent on produce. Program evaluation conducted by grantees indicated uniformly high redemption rates, strong support for the program among stakeholders, and a great deal of collaboration from both public agencies and private program partners. These collaborations were particularly important in conducting outreach to SNAP recipients.

 

FINI_FarmersMarkets_Year1_FMC_170413

6 Things Paul Ryan Doesn’t Understand About Poverty (But I Didn’t, Either) 

Karen Weese is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Salon, Dow Jones Investment Advisor, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Everyday Family, and other publications.

There are many prescriptions for combating poverty, but we can’t even get started unless we first examine our assumptions, and take the time to envision what the world feels like for families living in poverty every day.

Alternet

Structural racism and farmers markets, Part 2

Recently, I wrote the first post of where markets began and some of the barriers we have encountered along the way to healthy food for all. I hope that those who read it understood the distinction I was making between individual, institutional and structural racism.

In it, I gave my version of the chronological history of markets in order to show the intentional and thoughtful work done by leaders so far. One of those milestones was the work with public health advocates, starting in the early 2000s and one of the examples I use of that is Kaiser Permanente’s creation of farmers markets. This began around 2003, when ob/gyn Dr. Preston Manning had an idea to put a farmers market on the Oakland  KP campus and begat a movement of “market champions”around the U.S. during their shift to wellness rather than crisis care. This report on their markets came out a few years ago and has some very interesting analysis of market interventions.  The evolution of the “campus” market in the emerging market typology spectrum linked below is illustrated in there as is some data on the marked increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables among surveyed marketgoers, and (what I remember as the surprising outcome to them ) of the increase in social capital for their staff. (Here is the draft version of the market typology.)

The KP markets marked one of the first long-term partnerships with a health care provider interested in them as interventions for their target audience. In other words, it seems to be the beginning of the era of partners realizing markets were more nimble than they had previously seemed and so could be added into new communities for multiple reasons, including those with complex public health goals. The KP/market relationship seemed strained at times (full disclosure: back then, my organization  was in discussion to help KP with their market strategy, but the New Orleans levee breaks of 2005 took precedence for our time. We did continue to discuss markets with them and even included their staff in some of Market Umbrella’s trans•act research into market evaluation), but  KP remained thoughtful about how they supported markets and constantly offered some good critical thinking about the capacity of markets and what success measures that they thought were appropriate.

I became fond of saying that the relationship was a match made in heaven as (back then) markets were all energy with little discipline and public health was all discipline with little energy. These health partnerships have led to many things, like the incentive strategy and the expansion of the voucher programs. There is no doubt that market have adopted a wider view of good food  and done an amazing job at encouraging those with benefit program dollars to come to their markets. Most importantly, markets gained a better understanding of the social determinants of health paradigm.

World Health Organization (WHO) offers a two tier view of these factors: the daily physical environment of a person and the distribution of resources and the political power to change the factors. It is important to address the safety, transportation needs, housing etc of a person who is at-risk in order to offer solutions to repair their health, but without also addressing how that environment ended as less safe or without decent places to live, that individual will remain at risk. What is also important to note about these indicators is that they rely on community wealth being available. Before we tied our market balloon to these pillars of health, our initiatives were often seen as elitist and obsessed with a construct of local that had no relevance to the larger world. Now of course, it is clear that addressing inequities cannot be completed by outside funders swooping in, and that entrepreneurial activity is a necessary aspect for empowerment; efforts across the globe in micro-investing or Slow Money here in the U.S. have shown the trend is appealing even to big time money folks. So economic power at the local level is key to this shift and in food systems, no one does that better than farmers markets.

Kellogg Foundation’s shift about the same time to a continuum of health for families  – encapsulated beautifully at one of their conferences as”first food, early food, school food, community food”  – allowed them  to lead the discussion on this overarching strategy. The foundation focuses on “three key factors of success and their intersections: education and learning; food, health and well-being; and family economic security. Lots of good language to seek out as well viewing some of the work from Kellogg and its partners. Check out their resources.

The CDC definition:

“the conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Conditions (e.g., social, economic, and physical) in these various environments and settings (e.g., school, church, workplace, and neighborhood) have been referred to as “place.” In addition to the more material attributes of “place,” the patterns of social engagement and sense of security and well-being are also affected by where people live.

http://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/data/index.htm

So place and the civic engagement could be the two buckets to consider. How can markets address either of these? Place is pretty simple isn’t it? Let’s say that your market is working to add at-risk shoppers using an incentive and EBT program and finds that one chief barrier is the lack of public transportation options around your location. It may help to advocate for a bus to alter its route for the market day. Or to add more bike parking to encourage non-drivers or to set aside a few parking spaces close to the entrance for drop-offs, shuttles, jitneys or uber. One great way to look at the place around you is to use PPS’ Placemaking audits and tools and see how inviting your area is.

Clearly, civic engagement is another area that markets could do more with. The Power of Produce (POP) program offered by FMC is a lovely way to offer this. Another might be for the market to work with newly arrived citizens through expanding language choices or the market’s products. Shady seating, community information are also good. But how about market leaders showing up to a housing meeting in their city? Or working on a microinvestment strategy with shoppers and local banks to encourage new producers or other community solutions?

I had the good fortune to attend the BALLE’s “The Future of Health is Local” webinar which dove into the structural work around health and wealth, although more at the institutional purchasing power level. What was really great about it was the detailed insight of health care providers like KP. BALLE is an invaluable resource to anyone working on community wealth strategies. I attended a few of their conferences in the past and had some great meet ups with initiatives and researchers who are embedding the farmers market movement and lessons into their work. It is a great and valuable time for those  thinking of attending an added conference. Definitely check out their resources.

So, the work to include all of the social determinants into our food work is not fully realized. That issue is at the heart of these 2 posts and why (I think) the divide between whites and people of color seems wider and deeper than ever. It is commendable for us to rid our language and actions from individual racist attitudes, and to add institutional partners and programs that add access, but we must go beyond that. If we use our power and privilege to explore and address inequities within the larger physical and political environment, we will start to see better outcomes, and the social determinants framework is as good of a way as any to do that in organizing terms.

Star assessment of community health

 

Related statement from National Young Farmers Coalition.