Breckinridge staff supports Fresh Stop Market, healthier choices
A staffer at Breckinridge Elementary envisioned families having a ready supply of farm-fresh produce, and her efforts led to a nearby pop-up market where residents can fill brown paper bags with affordable, nutritious vegetables bi-weekly in season. “I thought this would be a good benefit for our Woodhill community, for overall health and well-being. At Breckinridge, we have a pretty high free-and-reduced percentage. In our community, we have a lot of ready-to-eat type meals and not-so-healthy options, but what is our access to fresh fruits and vegetables?” recalled Sandra Ballew-Barnes, the school’s Family Resource Center coordinator.
Ballew-Barnes, who had experience with Fresh Stop Markets elsewhere, reached out in September 2017 to various agencies, neighbors, organizations, and churches to gauge interest in the Richmond Road/Woodhill corridor. A year later, she is pleased at the myriad volunteers who turn out at the Woodhill Community Center and at the level of participation. In early August, for instance, the market welcomed nearly four dozen customers. “That’s going pretty well for a new venture,” she said, noting Woodhill is the third site in Lexington.
The customers, or shareholders, commit to pay in advance for 10 to 12 varieties of local, organic produce. Pooling resources builds enough buying power to purchase at wholesale prices from the farmers, and a sliding scale means food is affordable for everyone. “It’s really about food access,” said Jeremy Porter, executive director of the Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition, a key partner at the Woodhill site. “We aim for 70 to 75 percent of people in the market to be on a limited or fixed income, so they’d pay $6 or $12 for all these items.”
At the Aug. 30 market, shareholders took home poblano peppers, bell peppers, radishes, white potatoes, beets, carrots, tomatoes, honey sweet pears, mixed greens, yellow squash, rainbow Swiss chard, and sweet potato greens. With each item came a tip sheet describing the vegetable, with storage and prep suggestions as well as nutritional information. Meanwhile in the kitchen, a guest chef cooked a simple meal using several ingredients of the day. Volunteers also offered prep ideas as people browsed the tables stacked with produce. “Families can be creative with the new vegetables they are trying,” said Angela Rey-Barreau, a kindergarten teacher who volunteers at the market.
“This initiative is directly impacting Breckinridge by bringing fresh, organic, locally grown vegetables to a more accessible location at a manageable price point,” Rey-Barreau said. “The market has also developed a sense of a family community in itself, with shareholders chatting about life and sharing ideas about the foods they are taking home.”
Second-grade teacher Sharon Stone, another “veggie cheerleader,” also helps restock items and shares recipes with a dash of encouragement. “The market helps families cut their food bill and gives them a chance to try different fruits and veggies at a low cost,” Stone said. “I see the Fresh Stop Market as a way to show support for our students by offering them better food choices.”