United Way donor investments are supporting mini-farmers markets in low-income “food desert” neighborhoods. Here, residents can use their SNAP and EBT benefits (food stamps) to purchase all foods for sale. They can also receive “Carrot Cash,” a dollar-for-dollar match of their food stamps to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Residents are being trained to expand markets into their own neighborhoods and nutrition education programs will be offered through nearby after school programs.
The United Way-supported North Hill Open Fresh Outdoor Market takes place each Sunday of the growing season from 1- 4 p.m. at Bailey Oglesby Park next to Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Martin Lauer Senior Apartments. All volunteers and vendors are North Hill community members. A second market operates bi-weekly on Tuesday evenings in Akron’s Summit Lake neighborhood.
North Hill market manager Beth Vild is at the helm of the market’s planning and operation. She is passionate about both the market and the neighborhood. “It was important to create a farmer’s market that is for and by North Hill community members. Residents want to see this happen so much and are really excited.”
Earth by April vendor and yoga instructor Nia Green has lived in and loved the neighborhood for more than 30 years. “This park four years ago was crime ridden and uncared for. Our goal has been to take back this park. The weekly farmers market is helping.”
Farmers markets in low-income neighborhoods is just one example of how United Way is on the forefront of creating and implementing real solutions to childhood obesity, a preventable epidemic among our communities children that can result in serious health consequences later in life.
More than half of Summit County children suffered from childhood obesity. The causes are sometimes genetic, but more often a lack of knowledge about good nutrition and not getting the health benefits of physical activity. Lack of finances also has to be taken into consideration, as many low-income children and adults do not choose healthy options over less expensive fast food and often live in neighborhood that lack easy access to healthy food.
Childhood obesity and other issues of health inequality are the problems.