by Melissa Orozco-McDonough
Inner city living can be tough at times. Getting around can be challenging if you don’t have a car of your own and public transportation is unreliable (or nonexistent). When walking or biking are your only options, it can be quite hard to find a good job, let alone a good supermarket close enough to home. So what do you do in this situation? Buy groceries for your family at the local convenience store? You may be able to find some basic staples there—if you’re lucky—but the corner store would never suffice for fresh produce and other nutritious food options. Suffice it to say food insecurity and lack of access to healthy food is, unfortunately, a very common problem in urban neighborhoods.
The Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Market was created to address exactly this issue. A Dutchess Outreach and Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition partnership endeavor, the Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Market is a traveling farmers market that strives to provide fresh, local produce to areas designated “food deserts.” The USDA defines food deserts as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food,” in this case the City of Poughkeepsie. This lack of access, or food insecurity, often in turn contributes to a poor diet and can, in many cases, lead to higher rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. As there is only one full-fledged supermarket in the city, and it’s two miles from the waterfront area, at the moment, many of Poughkeepsie’s downtown and low-income residents simply do not have access to healthy and nutritious food choices. The mobile market aims to fill this gap by providing residents with food options.
The market, which will run for 22 weeks a year, consists of a “pickup truck and a purpose-designed trailer in which customers shop for locally-grown or produced vegetables, fruit, dairy, and breads purchased from local farmers,” per Korey Findley, Dutchess Outreach mobile market manager. He explains, “The market has partnered with organizations such as churches, housing centers, and neighborhood associations to create weekly market sites that are easily accessible for residents who most lack access to fresh produce.” Aside from this, the market also offers education to residents about preparation, storage, and the various health benefits of fresh produce. Findley, who comes from a family of farmers and has thus been involved with farming almost his entire life, is incredibly dedicated to the cause of helping community residents better access farm fresh foods, while also helping to promote local agriculture.
Some of Findley’s achievements include resurrecting both Walden’s and Gardiner’s farmers markets; creating and hosting farm-related activities, free of charge to promote local agriculture, such as local farm tours, tastings, and non-GMO local food events; and with his experience as a chef, caterer and culinary arts teacher, he has even created a gardening and cooking program, hosted at the Wallkill River School of Art for children ages four and up. As part of the program, the children learn how to grow their own fresh veggies and herbs, and furthermore, will be taught how to prepare their bounty using easy, child-friendly, and healthy recipes.
The Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Market has received funding and operational support from the Low Income Investment Fund, Community Foundation of the Hudson Valley, HealthQuest, Vassar Brothers Medical Center and the United Way for Cornell Cooperative Extension. The market currently sources from many farms throughout the Hudson Valley, including Fishkill Farms, Winterton Farms, Huguenot Street Farm, Sprout Creek Farm, Liberty View Farm, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, and many more.
“We are actually stocking the mobile market with all foods found at a farmers market. We will have cheeses, breads, grains, meats, honey, maple syrup, and lots of locally grown produce,” said Findley. When asked what customers can expect as far as pricing, Findley stated, “we will be seeking donations from farms and utilizing the Dutchess Outreach Gleaning Project to subsidize the overall pricing. The goal is to address the food access issues and by lowering pricing, increasing overall access.” In general, the prices are geared to be lower than that of a grocery store, and therefore more affordable for lower-income shoppers. The market is working with different organizations and groups to offer the educational portions of the program. “Cornell Cooperative Extension will be one of the organizations, and HealthQuest will be sending along their nutritionists to aid in education on healthier food choices. We anticipate participation from the CIA for healthy cooking demos, but this hasn’t been set in stone until their next class starts.”
The mobile market officially launches on June 11 at the Family Partnership Center in Poughkeepsie and will run through October, depending on weather and crops. The market is scheduled to be located at the New Hope Community Center on Hudson Avenue in Poughkeepsie on Tuesdays from 11am-2pm, the Interfaith Towers on Washington Street on Thursdays from 11am-2pm, the Family Partnership Center on North Hamilton Street on Fridays from 12-4pm and Middle Main Street at Main and North Cherry Street on Saturdays from 11am-2pm.
For more information visit POKPlentyMarket on Facebook.