Shopping the farmers’ market on opening day.
Located within the food desert that Southeast Raleigh has become, WakeMed Raleigh Campus is a perfect location for the newest farmers’ market in Wake County. WakeMed staff saw an opportunity to provide access to healthy produce to community residents to address the food access crisis, as well as its own family of 5,000 employees, 300 volunteers and thousands of patients and visitors to the Raleigh Campus each day. That idea became a reality this month as the weekly WakeMed Farmers Market opened on June 2.
Seven vendors opened the market, and four additional vendors were on hand last week after learning of the market. Some vendors sold out, which speaks to the success of opening day and what market organizers hope signals ongoing success for the farmers and other vendors at market.
The WakeMed Farmers Market accepts EBT cards, as well cash, debit and credit, to enable local families to eat healthier. WakeMed is also offering 2 for 1 Market Match vouchers while funding lasts for those who are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to help stretch low-income residents’ dollars further at the market.
Planning the Market
WakeMed staff saw the need for fresh food in SE Raleigh after two grocery stores closed last year, and saw that they could capitalized on the hospital’s location in SE Raleigh, as well as other inherent advantages for a market, such as facilities staff who set up tents and tables each week, campus police who help with parking, and marketing and public relations staff, to make the market a reality. WakeMed reached out to AHA and others in the community to figure out how to start the market.
There is great signage on campus pointing the way to the market. Free parking at P1 deck as well.
“We have been incredibly impressed with the network of farmers, farmers market managers, N.C. Department of Agriculture staff and many others who have been exceptionally helpful in providing guidance and contacts,” said Heather Monackey with WakeMed Public Relations. “And we ended up with a very successful start as a result.” Joseph Fasy, who manages the Growers Market of Fuquay-Varina, which also accepts EBT cards, consulted with WakeMed, and Demetrius Hunter of Grocers on Wheels has stepped up to help in a market manager role in terms of onsite logistics and securing vendors going forward, Monackey said.
“Demetrius’ mission at Grocers on Wheels and our market’s mission are very similar, so it’s a great fit,” she continued. “He has responded to the food desert emergency by creating relationships with farmers and produce vendors, and loading up his truck each week. Then he drives to different locations on a regular schedule where residents have no access to fresh food. His contacts in the community will help make this work too.”
Hunter is excited about the possibilities the new market brings to the community. “WakeMed is a great location to provide fresh fruits and vegetables. Everyone knows WakeMed, and it has a lot of trust in the community,” Hunter said. “We’re able to bring various vendors in, and now the food desert in SE Raleigh can be like an oasis.” Hunter noted that it has been challenging for years for residents in the community to buy fresh food, especially those who had to spend money to get on a Capital Area Transit (CAT) bus to get to a store, and then carry groceries home on the bus. Now area residents and EBT cardholders can shop the market and get the extra benefit of the vouchers for the Market Match.
WakeMed’s outreach to the community about the market includes direct mail to some 23,000 people in the 27610 zip code, billboard advertising at Rt. 440 and New Bern Ave. , and community outreach to various area organizations. This flier can be used to promote the market.
Health Need for Fresh Food
WakeMed President & CEO Donald Gintzig welcomed shoppers to the opening day of the market.
Studies show that lack of access for fresh and healthy foods contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. “We educate our patients, their families, and our own staff about the importance of making healthy food and fitness choices,” according to Deb Laughery, vice president of public relations at WakeMed. “The addition of our farmers market is a great tool for our physicians, nurses and educators, and a huge benefit for the patients we treat daily. Now we’re able to offer our patients, visitors and the community an incredibly convenient and affordable means to access fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The farmers market opened just after the new Galley Grocery Store on Bragg St., just south of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in SE Raleigh, which is also seeking to provide healthy options in a convenient location for area residents. Ship of Zion Ministries and Hope Community Church have partnered on this project. (See News & Observer article: Southeast Raleigh Grocery Store Aims to Offer Food Desert Relief)
Market Hours and Location
The WakeMed Farmers Market is open Tuesdays from 10 am-2 pm through Aug. 26 at the hospital’s outdoor courtyard , located just through the Main Visitor’s Entrance off of New Bern Ave. Parking is available for free in the P1 parking deck for market patrons, and the hospital is located on the bus line.