Pick This: Mini Markets

In an effort to get more fresh, local produce into urban areas, dozens of community activists have assisted the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's efforts to develop a "Mini Market" program in Minneapolis--this year they're up to six markets scattered throughout the city. Several markets are located in high-density, low-income neighborhoods, in community centers and apartment buildings easily accesible to elderly shut-ins or those who lack the time or transportation to visit Minneapolis's two main markets. So far, the markets have been well-received by their neighbors--at the Ebeneezer Apartments, elderly shoppers have been known to watch from their windows, and show up to shop as soon as vendors start setting up their tents.

The mini-markets help remove economic barriers to healthy food, by making fresh produce more accessible. IATP research conducted at several mini markets in 2006 found a 20 percent increase in vegetable consumption among mini market patrons during the farmers’ market season.

All of the mini markets accept Farmers’ Market NutritionProgram (FMNP) coupons, for those who participate in WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and NAPS (Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors) food assistance. According to IATP, FMNP coupons have represented one- to two-thirds of the sales at individual mini markets in past years. Additionally, mini market vendors donate unsold produce to area food shelves, which helps bring fresh, local produce to the city's most disadvantaged residents.

I visited the Camden Market last week, which is located in the parking lot of the Warren art center, across the street from Sauced. (It's easily accessible from the Victory Memorial Parkway, and if you bike from south Minneapolis, you can jump in Twin or Cedar Lake on the way home.) The Camden market had just three vendors, but each brought such a wide selection of produce--sweet corn, tomatoes, beets, onions, potatoes, you name it--that the market had nearly as many things to choose from as the larger downtown markets, yet didn't feel nearly as overwhelming. Organizers say the Camden market attracted about 200 shoppers in 4 hours--that kind of turnout should be able to keep the markets going until produce dwindles in late September or early October.

Brian Coyle Farmers’ Market Mondays, 3-7 pm Brian Coyle Community Center 420 15th Avenue South

Sabathani Farmers’ Market Wednesdays, 3-7 pm Sabathani Community Center 310 East 38th Street Stevens Square Farmers’ Market Wednesdays, 3-7 pm Plymouth Congregational Church West Franklin Avenue and Nicollet Avenue South

Ebenezer Park Farmers’ Market Thursdays, 2-4 pm Ebenezer Park Apartments 2700 Park Avenue South Ebenezer Tower Farmers’ Market Thursdays, 2-4 pm Ebenezer Tower Apartments 2523 Portland Avenue South

Camden Farmers’ Market Thursdays, 3-7 pm The Warren: An Artist Habitat 4400 Osseo Road

For more information, visit www.iatp.org.

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