Report on September Direct Markets

While Gaining Ground distributes most of its produce through recipient partners’ food pantries and meal programs, about 15 percent is distributed directly to individuals and families at three Gaining Ground markets, two at Lowell Head Start sites and one at the Concord Food for Families site. Market Manager Paula Jordan organizes the produce, sets up the markets and engages with those participating. In the report below, she shares her insights from recent September markets.

Head Start markets end October 9th. The last week of September, we had another amazing market at the Phoenix Avenue site. Since moving indoors from the playground space, we have served so many more families. It just goes to show that a small change can support increased accessibility.

We had over 50 individuals and families visit with lots of enthusiasm. Teachers, bus drivers, staff, parents, and children participated. I had recipes for leeks and kale from Just Food, and folks were eager to try them. There was a lot of talk of kale chips. Many remarked on the freshness of the food. We always make a couple of bags for parents who arrive after the market is over.

Children continue to come right over to the tables, ask for a bag and do their shopping. We polish carrots, eat them together, and smell herbs and leeks. The brave ones even eat fresh kale with me. Some parents comment that they weren’t going to shop but their kids love getting their own veggies. One teacher, whose students all travel home by bus at the end of the day, will send out permission slips for them to shop at the last market. I will go to the site a little earlier than usual to have this special market time with the kids.

Chop Chop donated their fall magazine issue (they had donated the summer issue as well) and we had that along with a booklet on Childhood Nutrition from Head Start for interested families. Raddish Kids donated laminated recipe cards that I will share with parents and teachers next week. We talked about how recipes and cooking can be used in literacy, nature, and math studies. They are very excited to use them.

For the second year, GG will also donate 30 sugar pumpkins for a parent engagement night at the Phoenix Avenue Head Start in October.

The Head Start Children’s Village at the Mill (CVM) site is a smaller market. Last week we served about 30 teachers and families. CVM has an area of items for families to take as needed (dry good, clothes, etc.). We have been bringing a large box of onions each week and leaving the leftovers. The social worker told me that during the week families took them all home.

We are going to Head Start two weeks longer this year, making it an 18-week market. I will also go one time in mid-November to drop off roots, squash, and other late fall produce.

At Food for Family in Concord we have consistently have 30 to 45 individuals and families each week, in addition to 10 home deliveries.

Two weeks ago, Open Table came to the Food for Families market to introduce themselves, share information about their services, and offer small bags of dry goods (rice, peanut butter, oats, and canned vegetables). They were very positively received, and folks were happy to take a pre-made bag of goods. We are hoping for continued Open Table visits next year so Food for Families can have the option of receiving dry goods as well.  

Saturday is our last Food for Families market. The season has gone by very quickly. We are planning the holiday distribution in November and all Food for Families participants will be invited to come. We’ll have lots of roots, garlic, fresh greens, and dried flower/herb swags designed by Farmer Hannah Lawson.

Thanks again to all who have helped with the farm and markets this season. We appreciate your help and positive feedback as well.  Happy Fall!