05/10/12 — City launches new vegetable program

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City launches new vegetable program

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 10, 2012 1:46 PM

Local farmers markets, like the two in Goldsboro, not only provide consumers with access to fresh food, they contribute to the farm economy, said Kevin Concannon, U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, during a visit to Goldsboro Wednesday.

And the new Produce Ped'lers program is a way not only to involve children, but to get fresh and healthy foods into communities that otherwise have limited access to such goods, he said.

Initiated by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at Cherry Farms, Produce Ped'lers will employ local youths to peddle bicycle rickshaws with fresh produce to neighborhoods around the city.

The project is funded by a USDA Farmers' Market promotion grant. Community partners include Dillard Academy Charter School, the Wayne County Health Department, the Wayne Food Initiative, the city of Goldsboro, Plum Tree Marketplace and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Concannon, who was in Raleigh earlier in the week to announce a new grant program, said he had learned of Produce Ped'lers and wanted to know more. He was among those attending the kickoff for the program at Herman Park.

The new grant program announced in Raleigh allows farmers markets to process electronic benefit cards, he said.

When word spreads that electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards can be used at farmers' markets, more people will come, Concannon said.

"This market has been approved to receive SNAP benefits," said Shorlette Ammons, a member of the team that put together the Produce Ped'lers program. "So we are just waiting on the EBT machine. We are trying to fill in a few gaps to be able for our vendors to be able to us those machines in the community. People will be able to use their SNAP cards here at the market later this summer."

The Produce Ped'lers program is another example of trying to make healthy food more readily available to neighborhoods referred to as "food deserts" -- meaning they may only have a small corner store that may have limited, and usually more expensive, fresh foods or vegetables, Concannon said.

"The fact they (children) are engaged, that is one of the positive benefits," he said. "One, it is a productive use of their energy and their creativity. But also it reminds them again that it is important to know where food comes from, that healthy food can make a difference in our lives. Our health is a gift that we should look after and one of the best ways to look after it is to eat healthy."

Concannon said Americans eat too much processed food and that obesity is a national problem

"This (Herman Park) market is here every Wednesday and we want folks to know about it," Ms. Ammons said. "It is open every Wednesday at 9:30 and basically goes to the farmers are out of produce. Then there is also a Friday market on George Street run by Plum Tree Marketplace and that one is from 4 to 7 every Friday."

For more information about the Produce Ped'lers program, contact Ms. Ammons at sammonss@ncat.edu or 919-288-0192. Growers interested in selling at the City Market, should contact Mark Wilson at mwilson@ci.goldsboro.nc.us. For the Plum Tree Market, contact Joanne Lesak at grandpachildren@earthlink.net.