Farmer’s markets are finding a new home in public train stations across Atlanta, as local organizations develop innovative solutions improving food access.
Each of the thoughtfully selected locations are located within or around areas that the USDA has identified as food deserts. A food desert is defined as, “[a part] of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.” These areas are considered low-income, low-access regions that fail to have adequate nutritious food options. The USDA estimates that approximately 17.7 percent of the U.S. population, amounting to about 54.4 million people, lives under these circumstances.
Atlanta is known as one of the worst regions for food deserts. A 2014 article in The Guardian highlighted the issue explaining that, “In Atlanta, the ninth-biggest metropolis of the world's richest country, thousands of people can't get fresh food, and some are getting sick as a result.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that over 2 million people in Georgia live in food deserts, including 500,000 children. Food deserts are not a benign problem, as a 2009 study published in Rural Sociology found, “a positive relationship between increased rates of child overweight and the percentage of the district population residing in a food desert.”
In order to improve access for low income families, the Fresh MARTA Market has adopted the Double SNAP Program. This program helps families who rely on the government Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) by matching every dollar of their purchases, doubling their budget for produce.
While these stands are undoubtedly making an impact for families who depend on SNAP, they have also added a new market for local farmers. Last year, approximately 18 percent of all of the food sold at the produce stands was sourced from local farmers. Their future goals include bringing that number closer to 50 percent.
Next year the Fresh MARTA Market hopes to include “value-added” products at their stands. These items include options such as “kale chips, or locally made breads or juices, or chopped vegetables that people can eat on their way to work or as a snack.” These would hopefully serve as an alternative to fast food
Overall, King explained that, “the project has been wildly successful!” Their programming may in fact serve as a model for other cities looking to implement similar solutions. King finished by explaining that, “the markets are a benefit to people whether or not they are living in a low income low access area . . . and that they expand the reach and visibility of food that is produced in and around Atlanta to populations of people that might not otherwise go to a farmers market.”
For anyone interested in volunteering at next season’s Fresh MARTA Market produce stand, Destination HealthEU encourages you to visit the Atlanta Community Food Bank website. As of this year, Organix Matters will be running the markets on site. You can sign up for shifts by searching for the MARTA Market. The next season of the MARTA Market will begin May 2nd and will be open through December 1st of 2017.
1. USDA Defines Food Deserts. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts
2. Documentation. (2017, January 24). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/documentation/
3. Schafft, K. A., Jensen, E. B., & Hinrichs, C. C. (2009). Food Deserts and Overweight Schoolchildren: Evidence from Pennsylvania. Rural Sociology, 74(2), 153-177. doi:10.1111/j.1549-0831.2009.tb00387.x