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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Serving Up Education & Local Fare at the Farmers’ Markets

Thanks to Brittany Crump and Billie Karel, master’s in public health candidates in Nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill and interns at Wake County Cooperative Extension, for this article. 

When the farmers’ markets in Fuquay-Varina and Wendell opened this spring, both had more vendors than ever before bringing their local produce and foods to these communities, plus the new capability to accept EBT cards for shoppers who are receiving food assistance benefits. This new EBT option is thanks to USDA grant funding awarded to AHA and its partners Wake County Cooperative Extension and Wake County Human Services to help the two markets.

We visited the Wendell Farmers’ Market and the Growers Market of Fuquay-Varina to provide nutrition education and demonstrations as well as to conduct a shopper survey as part of the evaluation of the grant progress.

Veggie Passport

Shoppers got their Veggie Passports stamped at the Growers-Market of Fuquay-Varina earlier this summer as part of an nutrition education demonstration.

The Growers Market of Fuquay-Varina is managed by Joe Fasy, a professional chef and real food enthusiast. Chef Joe offers cooking demonstrations at the market almost weekly, which offers folks a taste of local foods sold at the market and helps create a fun, community atmosphere. We visited the market in June and brought “Vegetable Passports” from “The United States of Fruits & Vegetables” for children to taste a variety of fresh, cut vegetables available from the market and receive “stamps” on their passport for each new vegetable or fruit they tried. We also brought peanut butter and ranch dressing along for dipping. Raw rutabagas were a surprisingly big hit, along with broccoli, beets, and zucchini!

Access for All with EBT

“One week in June, we had 10 EBT cardholders shop the market,” Fasy said. “There are fluctuations from week to week, but as more people learn about this opportunity and when their benefits are loaded onto their cards, we are seeing them here at market. We have not had a day that someone with an EBT hasn’t utilized the market.  And we love that,” he continued.

A few weeks ago, we visited the Wendell Farmers Market, which is managed by the super-dedicated Brandy Hunter. At this market, we demonstrated a delicious recipe for summer corn salad with tasting samples for everyone. “Our little market is growing—more vendors and more customers. We’ve been so pleased to see more shoppers this season supporting our local farmers, and especially those in Eastern Wake who can now use their EBT card at the market to buy healthy local fruits and veggies,” Hunter said.

Healthy, local produce for everyone in Eastern Wake, thanks to the Wendell Farmers' Market's ability to accept EBT cards!

Healthy, local produce for everyone in Eastern Wake, thanks to the Wendell Farmers’ Market’s ability to accept EBT cards!

At both markets, we surveyed shoppers about the market and EBT usage as part of ongoing evaluation and assessment. While we weren’t able to collect enough data from just one market day to draw wide-sweeping conclusions, it is clear that these farmers markets’ are real assets to health and community well-being, and that EBT acceptance only supports this function.

Farmers’ markets are only open certain days of the week during certain hours, which can be challenging for shoppers with fewer resources. Erratic work schedules, lack of transportation, and any number of other logistical hurdles may keep a potential EBT shopper from coming to the market, and that’s if they know they can use their EBT card at market! 

Of course, as any farmers’ market regular well knows, the fresh local produce makes it well worth the effort, and we’re confident that with time and consistent effort to get the word out in the community, these markets will continue to grow a consistent base of EBT shoppers.

Through the grant funding, AHA continues to advertise in local newspapers about the market and has added additional EBT signage for both markets. Wake County Human Services also recently received funding that enabled it to conduct a 3-month marketing campaign at a gas station in Wendell promoting the farmers’ market further its goals to reduce obesity in the Eastern Wake area. There are tear-off pads at the gas pumps and window cling-ons that advertise the market.

Market Hours & Locations

In Wendell, the market is open Saturdays, 8 am-12 pm at 3700 Wendell Blvd. In Fuquay-Varina, the market is open on Wednesdays from 3-6 pm and Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm at Centennial Square (at the corner of N. Main St. and E. Academy St.). Both markets accept EBT cards as well as debit and credit cards. Visit them, shop and let others know they are accepting EBT cards!

Farmers’ Markets of Wake County

In Wake County, four markets accept EBT cards, plus some vendors at the State Farmers’ Market in Raleigh:

 Access a complete list of all the farmers’ markets in Wake County on AHA’s website and celebrate National Farmers’ Market Week August 4-10th with them!

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