A successful farmers market sprouts economic, community improvement

Since its opening in Summer 2011, the Linda Vista Farmers Market (LVFM) has become a community hub for social interaction, healthy choices, and neighborhood resources.  A year in the making, LVFM has blossomed into a successful weekly event at 6939 Linda Vista Road. 

Every Thursday afternoon, when the city bus makes a stop at Linda Vista Road and Ulric Street, floods of residents exit with shopping totes in hand, ready to fill them with colorful produce.  The Fresh Fund supplemental food-assistance program was the positive force behind an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables for community members.

Linda Vista market

The Linda Vista market location is one of seven markets in San Diego that accept Electronic Benefits Transfers (EBT), the method for using public assistance funds, and is among five that participated in Fresh Fund.  Implementing Fresh Fund at Linda Vista provided an access point to farmers markets where many barriers had occurred previously.

“Fresh Fund allowed the community to use benefits to make healthier choices, instead of being tempted by processed and unhealthy foods,” says Mallory Cochrane, Fresh Fund Outreach Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee, speaking on the nutritional importance of the Healthy Works program.

Vietnamese, Chinese, Latinos, and other ethnic groups comprise this community’s diverse culture.  It is the market’s ability to cater to culturally specific groups with relevant produce and food that has generated success for the market, even as the farmers market concept was new to the community.     

Kieu Tu is one of the frequent visitors to the market. Tu enjoys the ability to purchase culturally familiar goods.  An El Cajon resident who works in the Linda Vista area, Tu purchases 95% of her produce at the farmers market.  She says she is aware of the health and economic benefits local produce has on her family.

“I give it to them and they eat it and love it,” Tu says about incorporating fruits and vegetables into all meals for her three children.

Another reason she shops at the local markets, Tu says, is to discourage the environmental, ecological and health effects imported produce at supermarkets has on our health and ecology. 

On your next visit to the market, look for produce grown in Linda Vista at the nearby Bayside Community Center and Garden. Through a partnership with the San Diego Food Bank and Victory Gardens, Linda Vista is one of the pilot garden programs that support the community in growing and selling their own food.

Purchasing produce at a farmers market, in fact, encourages the consumption of local goods.  It means better-tasting food and produce picked fresh.  In addition, increased buying power has a direct impact on the community, especially when EBT funds are used.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, when $1 in CalFresh (formerly known as Food Stamps) money is used, there is a $1.73 economic impact in the local community.  Leveraging the market funds in EBT eligible communities becomes a viable and profitable method for farmers to sell in low-income communities where fresh, local choices are not readily available.

With the most common message of healthy eating addressing obesity prevention, one parent said that the Fresh Fund program actually helped her undernourished children increase to a healthier weight.  This same participant recognizes the fiscal impact for our region, saying that “It [the market] is less expensive than many other places.  My children eat healthier and it helps the economy.” 

Although the temporary Fresh Fund program ended in March 2012, the market still accepts EBT, debit and credit cards, as well as WIC Market Vouchers.  For more information on the market and event updates, visit the Facebook page or stop by on Thursday afternoons.  The samples are plentiful, and delicious lunches and dinners are available from multiple hot-food vendors. 

By Chelsea Fiss, UC San Diego-Center for Community Health Retail Program Manager

Linda Vista Farmers Market Facebook Page

Bayside Community Center Community Garden