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New produce market an oasis in urban ‘Food Desert’

Added on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Written by Julie Borgen, Twin Cities Media Relations Director for The Salvation Army Northern Division

Minnesota may enjoy being among the top five healthiest states in the country, but for the poorest among us, there is a different side to that coin. We rank seventh-worst in the nation for access to healthy food, in rural and urban communities that researchers often refer to as “Food Deserts.”

But now, the N. Lyndale Ave. Salvation Army in Minneapolis is teaming up with Loaves and Fishes to do something about it.

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Every Monday, the community is invited to a produce market at the N. Lyndale Ave. Salvation Army, where they can pick up a box and fill it with the fruits and vegetables of their choice (pictured left). The offerings vary week to week, but can include anything from potatoes and onions, to watermelon and oranges. On one particular day, there was even organic milk and yogurt available.

All of these foods are offered free of charge to anyone who wants to come, whether they live in the neighborhood or not.

Rachel Friesan from Loaves and Fishes“We buy this food at very low cost from Second Harvest Heartland, and we can’t use it all up at our dining sites, so we thought, why not just offer it to the public to take home?” said Rachel Friesen (pictured right) of Loaves and Fishes.

All of the food is fresh, and local produce is offered whenever it is available.

“It’s really high-end stuff that was in excess at local warehouses,” Friesen explained. “It’s getting to people in pristine condition, it tastes great, and it will last.”

Mai-Her-300x200For people like Mai Her and her 5-year-old daughter Genesis (pictured left), it’s a chance to stock up on healthy produce and stretch their food dollars further.

“We really like vegetables, and they’re good here,” Her said. “I go other places for produce, but they don’t have the really fresh stuff like here, so I usually come every Monday.”

Salvation Army social worker and team leader Matt Kirk says that is music to his ears.

“Not only is there a need for fresh produce, but it’s great to see that people want it, too,” he said. “We have hundreds of people here each week, and some of them start lining up a couple of hours ahead of time.”

Fresh produceWhile programs like this can’t take the place of local grocery stores offering healthy food at an affordable price, the goal is to make it more accessible to everyone.

“Not only does this event offer free, fresh produce, it brings it to people where they live,” Kirk said. “It’s helping to break down barriers to healthy food, and that is central to our mission.”

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