The Urban Farmer's market targets the approximately 2,550 residents of the Near East side community in Columbus. Goals of the program include: 1) To improve redemption rate of the WIC Farmer's Market Nutrition Program vouchers; 2) To create a collaborative health event for Columbus Public Health and the surrounding community; and 3) To provide information to promote and support World Breastfeeding Awareness Month.
This practice addresses the public health issue of the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in low to moderate income households. The near East side neighborhood in which the Columbus Public Health facility is located is completely void of major grocery stores. The local markets contain a very limited assortment of fresh produce. As a result, the most vulnerable families in our community – the senior citizens, pregnant women and young children - have to travel to the suburban grocery stores to find available fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to the residents of the Near East Side community, WIC participants in the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program have historically had a problem traveling to authorized farmer’s and farmstands. The lack of fresh fruits and vegetables has been documented to contribute, at least in part, to the growing epidemic of obesity especially among our children and the increased incidence of chronic diseases including diabetes.
WIC Programs in other large, urban communities in the State of Ohio were surveyed regarding best practices for the implementation of the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program. There were no other Agencies identified that sponsored a market and brought the market into the City or that collaborated with communities or agencies to expand the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in the community. This initiative represents a direct service approach in developing a new idea and resource in order to address a public health issue. It is an innovative use of the Columbus Public Health facility that involved employees, community partners, media and hundreds of residents of the City of Columbus and Franklin County.
Agency Community RolesColumbus Public Health was the lead agency in the development and implementation of this initiative. The staff of Columbus Public Health first obtained the participation of the local farmer’s who were essential to the success of the markets. Broad-based involvement was achieved as well as the engagement of community partners as listed:
The Ohio Department of Health provided support of this event through coverage from their media relations department as well as through resources that they were able to provide. This included items for the Breastfeeding information booth, plastic shopping bags for fresh produce and books for the children.
The Old Towne East Neighbors Association provided advertisement for the event through their local newsletter and also provided musical entertainment during the markets. o Local Breastfeeding Advocates provided assistance with planning and implementation of the breastfeeding information booth. This included staffing resources to help answer questions about breastfeeding as well as breastfeeding moms who circulated through the markets and handed out “freebies” that included pens, post-it notes, magnets, etc….
County Cooperative Extension provided staffing for cooking demonstrations of fresh vegetable preparation and education on the selection, storage and preparation of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Life Care Alliance as the Agency that is locally responsible for the administration of the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program who was on site to issue senior farmers market coupons and also provided advertising to local area senior citizens.
ImplementationIn addition to increasing the availability of fruits and vegetables for low to moderate income families, one of the goals of the WIC Farmer’s Market nutrition program is to introduce more people to farmstands and farmer’s markets and teach them to select and prepare a wide variety of locally grown produce. Although Franklin County has participated in the WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program since 1998, it has been difficult for clients to locate and travel to the farmer’s markets since Central Ohio has developed into a large urban community. It is for these reasons that we decided to bring the market, specifically designed for low to moderate income families, into the City.
The first step in planning the markets at The Columbus Public Health facility was to obtain a commitment from the local farmer’s. The farmer’s were first contacted in March as they were making plans and commitments to participate in various farm markets in the Greater Columbus Community. Eleven of the local growers made an original commitment to participate. The market dates were established for late July and August when the local harvest is most abundant.
Goal: To improve availability of fresh fruits and vegetables by improving the redemption rate of the WIC Farmer`s Market Nutrition Program vouchers.
Objective: To improve access to locally grown produce by sponsoring a Farmer's Market at the same time that Farmer's Market vouchers are distributed:
Performance measures: Markets were held at the Columbus Health Department on three consecutive Thursdays and approximately eleven local farmers participated.
Data collection: Health Department staff collected data on the number of markets, farmers and vouchers issued.
Outcomes (short-term): Health Department staff and Managers and Local Farmers received and reviewed the data. Lessons were learned about crowd control and market management.
Objective: To provide locally authorized farmers that participate in the WIC and Senior FMNP an opportunity to sell fruits and vegetables to urban community residents:
Performance measures: Local farmers were engaged early in the process and all had the opportunity to participate in the markets.
Data collection: Data was collected regarding the number of farmers participating and the amount of produce sold.
Outcomes (intermediate): We learned that a successful market requires extensive contact with the farmers about product availability.
Columbus Public Health maintains its commitment towards the continuation of the markets on the grounds of its facility and has authorized the continued use of the facility, grounds and security services. Additional commitments that are essential for the continuation of this practice have also been obtained from the local farmer’s, and the Ohio Department of Health Bureau of Nutrition Services has indicated that Franklin County will continue to receive vouchers through the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program.
In addition the local breastfeeding community would like to make their participation in the Market a part of their annual World Breastfeeding Awareness month celebration. In addition, this is a practice that could be easily transferable to other Local Health Departments in both urban and rural settings. This enables the Local Health Department to take an active role in a collaborative partnership of providing a valuable resource to young families, seniors, local farmers, and various other community members.