News

Farmers market gives East Palo Alto residents access to organic produce

Nonprofit hosts event every Wednesday through November

Every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., farmers and shoppers gather at the East Palo Alto farmers market, hosted by nonprofit Fresh Approach.

This year, the East Palo Alto market runs from May through November at Bloomhouse, 2555 Pulgas Ave. Farmers travel from as far as Salinas to attend the market, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fresh Approach is a nonprofit dedicated to providing healthy food access to low-income communities. They work with organic family farms in California, providing a space for them to sell their produce while giving East Palo Alto residents access to fresh produce. Food assistance program participants can also get free produce through the market's robust matching program.

"For a place like East Palo Alto, where they don't have access to a grocery store that has local, organic, healthy produce, I think it is extremely important to be there for the community," said Fresh Approach's food access program coordinator Vera Cordova Mendoza. "Especially during a time when, for some, money is tight, or they just got onto federal benefits because they lost their job."

As the COVID-19 pandemic has caused business closures and unemployment in the Bay Area, food insecurity is on the rise. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank reported that they nearly doubled the number of households they serve weekly, from 32,000 pre-pandemic to 60,000 now.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Lost jobs and income make it harder to afford necessities like food. Farmers also struggled to find places to sell their produce.

In an effort to help, Fresh Approach created the Farm Fresh Food Relief project, an emergency food hub that collects unsold produce from small farmers and distributes it to needy families. They continue to host markets at various locations in San Mateo County, including the one in East Palo Alto.

The East Palo Alto market features farmers from Gallardo's Organic Farm and Ponce Produce in Watsonville, a farming community in the Salinas Valley. Farmers also hail from Castellanos Farms in Tulare County, a more than three-hour drive from East Palo Alto.

Of all the Fresh Approach markets, the East Palo Alto market has the most expansive matching program, which allows recipients of Cal Fresh or other food assistance programs to double their money while shopping. In 2018, Fresh Approach distributed $25,793 in free produce through matching programs at the East Palo Alto market.

Shoppers with Cal Fresh EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards, formerly known as food stamps, can receive up to $20 in free produce per visit. The matching program goes beyond CalFresh — anyone considered low-income, who goes to the Ravenswood Family Health Center, veterans, or recipients of other food assistance programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are eligible to match their dollars.

Mendoza said she noticed more people using the Pandemic EBT cards, which were part of a one-time food assistance program to support students who lost access to school meals when schools closed.

Fresh Approach also partnered with local organizations to distribute coupons to low-income families from August to October. The coupons expire in November and can be redeemed for $3 of free produce around the county.

Though the pandemic has halted their in-person classes and limited the routes of their mobile market, Fresh Approach continues to address food insecurity.

Staff of Fresh Approach greet customers at their welcome tent during the launch of the East Palo Alto farmers market. Photo by Astrid Casimire/BCN Foundation.

Mendoza recalled the story of an old man who hadn't been coming to the market for a while as he was afraid to leave his home during the pandemic. When he finally attended the market, VeggieRX vouchers in hand, she struck up a conversation with him.

"He told me he hasn't been eating any fresh food for the last two months," Mendoza said. "With the market being there, he was finally able to buy some fresh produce."

Now, Fresh Approach is preparing for the launch of a mobile farmer's market in the south Bay Area, which will happen at the end of September.

For more information, people can visit their website at freshapproach.org.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Farmers market gives East Palo Alto residents access to organic produce

Nonprofit hosts event every Wednesday through November

by /

Uploaded: Sun, Sep 27, 2020, 9:13 am
Updated: Tue, Sep 29, 2020, 8:40 am

Every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., farmers and shoppers gather at the East Palo Alto farmers market, hosted by nonprofit Fresh Approach.

This year, the East Palo Alto market runs from May through November at Bloomhouse, 2555 Pulgas Ave. Farmers travel from as far as Salinas to attend the market, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fresh Approach is a nonprofit dedicated to providing healthy food access to low-income communities. They work with organic family farms in California, providing a space for them to sell their produce while giving East Palo Alto residents access to fresh produce. Food assistance program participants can also get free produce through the market's robust matching program.

"For a place like East Palo Alto, where they don't have access to a grocery store that has local, organic, healthy produce, I think it is extremely important to be there for the community," said Fresh Approach's food access program coordinator Vera Cordova Mendoza. "Especially during a time when, for some, money is tight, or they just got onto federal benefits because they lost their job."

As the COVID-19 pandemic has caused business closures and unemployment in the Bay Area, food insecurity is on the rise. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank reported that they nearly doubled the number of households they serve weekly, from 32,000 pre-pandemic to 60,000 now.

Lost jobs and income make it harder to afford necessities like food. Farmers also struggled to find places to sell their produce.

In an effort to help, Fresh Approach created the Farm Fresh Food Relief project, an emergency food hub that collects unsold produce from small farmers and distributes it to needy families. They continue to host markets at various locations in San Mateo County, including the one in East Palo Alto.

The East Palo Alto market features farmers from Gallardo's Organic Farm and Ponce Produce in Watsonville, a farming community in the Salinas Valley. Farmers also hail from Castellanos Farms in Tulare County, a more than three-hour drive from East Palo Alto.

Of all the Fresh Approach markets, the East Palo Alto market has the most expansive matching program, which allows recipients of Cal Fresh or other food assistance programs to double their money while shopping. In 2018, Fresh Approach distributed $25,793 in free produce through matching programs at the East Palo Alto market.

Shoppers with Cal Fresh EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards, formerly known as food stamps, can receive up to $20 in free produce per visit. The matching program goes beyond CalFresh — anyone considered low-income, who goes to the Ravenswood Family Health Center, veterans, or recipients of other food assistance programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are eligible to match their dollars.

Mendoza said she noticed more people using the Pandemic EBT cards, which were part of a one-time food assistance program to support students who lost access to school meals when schools closed.

Fresh Approach also partnered with local organizations to distribute coupons to low-income families from August to October. The coupons expire in November and can be redeemed for $3 of free produce around the county.

Though the pandemic has halted their in-person classes and limited the routes of their mobile market, Fresh Approach continues to address food insecurity.

Mendoza recalled the story of an old man who hadn't been coming to the market for a while as he was afraid to leave his home during the pandemic. When he finally attended the market, VeggieRX vouchers in hand, she struck up a conversation with him.

"He told me he hasn't been eating any fresh food for the last two months," Mendoza said. "With the market being there, he was finally able to buy some fresh produce."

Now, Fresh Approach is preparing for the launch of a mobile farmer's market in the south Bay Area, which will happen at the end of September.

For more information, people can visit their website at freshapproach.org.

Comments

Hks
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 29, 2020 at 10:39 am
Hks, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 10:39 am
1 person likes this

I consider East Palo Alto to be a part of (West) Palo Alto. News about Fresh Approach providing a farmer’s market to the residence of EPA is fabulous. I hope many people will donate to the organization and even allow volunteers to help the farmers set-up and dismantle their booths. Anyone who has the heart and muscle to help struggling communities would be appreciated.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.