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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Neighborhood Nutrition

Fondy Farmers’ Market

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Summer in Wisconsin announces itself with warmer weather, longer days and the return of farmers’ markets. Shorts and sandals are pulled out of winter storage so that customers can stroll, pale legs and all, through outdoor aisles of fresh and locally grown produce.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers’ markets held in our country has increased substantially over the last decade. There seems to be a growing interest in eating healthier foods that are cultivated in a sustainable manner, and high gas prices and an increased awareness of global warming are spurring consumers to concern themselves with how far food has to travel to get to their tables. A trip to the local farmers’ market supports those who are noble enough to farm land so that the rest of us can eat.

Fondy Farmers’ Market at 2200 W. Fond du Lac Ave. has been a neighborhood mainstay since the ’70s. In 2000, the Fondy Food Center (FFC) was created in response to a comprehensive study performed by the Hunger Task Force on food security in the most economically distressed areas of Milwaukee.

“Food security is knowing where your food is going to come from in a week or a month,” explains Young Kim, executive director of the FFC. Mainstream grocery stores have left central-city Milwaukee for the suburbs, where land and capital can support buildings that are 100,000 to 120,000 square feet in size. There are a handful of supermarkets left in the central city, but far more prevalent are the fast-food restaurants and convenience stores that sell a limited selection of food, most of which lack balanced nutrition and are sold at prices 29% higher than at larger suburban grocery stores.

Compounding the scarcity of fresh fruits and vegetables the enduring presence of poverty and the lack of economic opportunities in the area, thus creating “food insecurity,” or the inability to obtain and consume affordable food. The Fondy Food Center recognized that the stands Fondy Farmers’ Market were the perfect outlet for making fresh food available to the neighborhood and so began running the market in 2003.

Fondy Farmers’ Market is a producer-only market in that vendors must grow the products they sell. Most of the 30 farmers that sell their produce at Fondy are Southeast Asian and cultivate between 4 and 10 acres in areas between Germantown and Racine. “We work from both ends of the food spectrum, from the farm to the fork,” Kim says. The FFC’s Grow-Right Program is designed to strengthen farmer relationships by providing agricultural education and marketing assistance.

“We also offer cooking and nutrition education classes that help create a demand for fresh produce at the market. That, in turn, helps farmers become more profitable,” Kim adds. The food and nutrition program director at the Fondy Food Center is Lisa Kingery, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition and public health. She runs nutrition education programs like “Taste the Season,” a cooking demonstration workshop held on Saturdays at the market that uses simple recipes to introduce new fruits and vegetables to market customers.

According to a study by the Fondy Food Center, 79% of the households with children in the agency’s service area are headed by a single parent. Adolescent girls in the family are typically responsible for meal and snack preparation and almost all of these young women prepare uneconomical, unhealthy convenience meals that use highly processed ingredients. In response, the FFC created the Girls Chef Academy, a free cooking-based food system and nutrition education program that teaches middleschool-aged girls how to cook simple one-pot meals with whole foods.

The Fondy Farmers’ Market may look like a typical outdoor market, but beneath the layers of fruits and vegetables is a sense of community devoted to the greater good. The market is currently open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon. On June 14, the market will celebrate the season’s expanded hours with its first-ever BBQ and Greens Cook-Off.


Located at 2200 W. Fond du Lac Ave. For more information, visit www.fondymarket.org. From June 14 to Oct. 31, the market is open Saturdays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed Mondays and Fridays.

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