Obesity-related diseases are at epidemic proportions in the U.S., hitting marginalized and disadvantaged populations especially hard. The growth in childhood obesity, which can have grave, long-term health impacts, is especially alarming.
Public markets can play a key role in alleviating these health concerns, improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables, especially for those without grocery stores, and serving as a public gathering place that helps reduce social isolation and depression. Through its grant program, PPS supported efforts across the country to create economically sustainable markets in low-income communities. With support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, PPS in partnership with Columbia University is currently analyzing how seven of PPS’s grantee markets are serving to increase access to fresh food in their communities.
We have prepared a handbook for the USDA to identify best practices for farmers markets interested in redeeming the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) at their markets. This effort would make markets more accessible for lower income customers who are most at risk for obesity-related disease.
In addition to offering access to healthy, fresh foods, markets can also offer critical health and wellness education and information in a friendly, welcoming public gathering space. PPS assisted Kaiser Permanente, the country’s largest HMO, make their network of close to 30 farmers markets operating at hospitals and clinics more sustainable and beneficial for vendors and customers. And, through a series of grants PPS supported the Camden Area Health Education Center in Camden New Jersey, one of the poorest cities in the U.S. grow their farmers market network from one farm stand to five markets, which are all centers for health information.