Fresh Food, Fresh Faces: Woodhull YouthMarket

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Jayda, Brittney, and Jada

Bedford Stuyvesant and many other low-income Brooklyn neighborhoods have the dubious distinction of being “food swamps.” A “food swamp” is defined as a neighborhood that has an over-representation of fast food restaurants per capita and a lack of access to quality fresh produce, making it hard to eat healthy. To counterbalance the food swamp effect, farmers’ markets increase access to fresh and local produce for communities. They have proved to be an essential resource for education and public awareness, as well as a showcase for vibrant and colorful produce.

YouthMarkets are farmers’ markets operated by GrowNYC, managed by local youth, and have the added benefit of providing young people with opportunities to develop workforce skills. Restoration’s Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, GrowNYC, and Woodhull Medical Center are partnering to organize the Woodhull YouthMarket every Wednesday from July to November on the corner of Broadway and Marcus Garvey Boulevard.

Jada McFee, Jayda Frazier, and Britney Cunningham, all residents of NYCHA’s Marcy Housing and members of Restoration’s Jobs Plus program, started working at the nearby Woodhull YouthMarket last year as a way to teach their community about fresh foods and to learn more themselves. We caught up with them to hear their experience running the market, learning about produce, deepening friendships with their coworkers, and learning patience.

Jayda recently graduated high school and will begin college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. “I began working with the Farmers’ Market last year as part of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP),” she said recently. “My experience was really fun. It was nice meeting new people in my community, and learning about different fruits and vegetables, and teaching others. People would come up to me and say, ‘Wow! Are these carrots really purple?’ I enjoyed explaining things to them. I also learned which vegetables were available in each season, which, as a city girl, I had not really appreciated before.”

Jada is taking care of her baby boy while looking for full time work. “I began last year with the SYEP program where I met Jayda and Britney,” she said. “To be honest, I enjoyed my time at the market  last year more because of the high volume and the newness of the experience. One thing I’ve learned is that I don’t enjoy being a cashier. I prefer stocking the vegetables and fruits and creating a nice display. I hope to be able to use the skills I’ve learned here to find employment in healthcare and childcare fields.”

Britney, a school senior, said, “This year I’m learning to be patient because dealing with customers can be difficult. I will use the skills I have learned here to someday start my own business focusing on providing healthy food to children.”

The Woodhull Youthmarket will be running until November 21st. GrowNYC Farmers’ Markets and Youthmarkets accept SNAP/EBT, and for every $5 spent using EBT, customers receive a $2 Health Buck coupon which which can be used on fresh fruits and vegetables at the market. Visit www.grownyc.org/ourmarkets for more information and to learn about the various seasonal vegetables currently available at all markets.