Community Outreach & Education

Foothills Farmers’ Market conducts a number of projects and activities to educate and inform the community about the many health, economic, environmental, and social benefits of local foods.  A recent initiative seeks to attract low-income food shoppers and to make healthy, affordable foods readily available to all segments of the local community. 

Foothills Farmers’ Market has been awarded a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust that will allow the market to finance activities and hire a project coordinator to increase participation of low income individuals at its two farmers’ market locations in Shelby.

Low income persons currently represent less than 5 percent of the local farmers’ market customer base.  The $91,046 grant supports a two-year project focused on increasing that percentage by coordinating and expanding SNAP/EBT payment systems, conducting targeted outreach and education, and eliminating barriers that prevent low income citizens from patronizing the market. 

“There’s a false perception that farmers’ markets cater to trendy upscale shoppers who don’t care about cost” said Greg Traywick, county extension director and Foothills Farmers’ Market board member.  “We believe that healthy, local food should benefit every member of our community.  Other markets across the United States have made strides in successfully attracting low-income shoppers” Traywick said. “Price is not a barrier.  Most farmers’ market shoppers in those low-income neighborhoods believe their market has better prices than the grocery store.  Prices for fresh fruits and vegetables are low, especially during peak season when supplies are plentiful.”  

“Information is key” added Community Transformation Project catalyst coordinator Tammy Bass, who collaborated with Traywick on developing the proposal. “Low income customers need better access to information about market hours and locations and the food bargains they can find throughout the season in order to become more regular market shoppers.  Our project provides constant marketing and outreach to those consumers.  Educational programs will focus on how to purchase fresh local foods on a budget and how to include them into simple, delicious recipes.  We will also help low income shoppers use their food assistance benefits at our market locations.”

Ron McCollum serves as EBT Outreach Coordinator.

 

This project provides the personnel and resources needed to make healthy, affordable local foods accessible to residents of Cleveland County and the City of Shelby, where 14.3% of families live below the poverty line. It will specifically benefit residents of West Shelby, a USDA-designated food desert with 65% of residents having low access to food.  In addition to uniting SNAP participants with the market through targeted outreach, incentives, and support services, the project finances food-related demonstrations and workshops aimed at increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables among low-income residents.  It also explores opportunities and develops partnerships aimed at dispatching mobile produce markets to targeted low-income communities.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina.  Its mission is to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina.  The Health Care Division promotes wellness state-wide by investing in prevention and treatment.  The Poor and Needy Division of the Trust responds to basic life needs and invests in solutions that improve the quality of life and health for financially needy residents of Forsyth County.  Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. serves as sole trustee.

Foothills Farmers’ Market was founded in 2008 as a joint project of NC Cooperative Extension, Uptown Shelby Association, and the Cleveland County Chamber.  Formally incorporated and designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit effective May 3, 2010,  Foothills Farmers’ Market operates two seasonal tailgate farmers market in Cleveland County, North Carolina. These markets provide a direct connection to approximately 80 vendors with deep roots in Cleveland County and the surrounding region, including farms, nurseries, bakeries, meat & poultry providers, cheese makers and specialty foods producers.  Foothills Farmers’ Market endorses sustainable food production practices and innovation, contributes to the health and prosperity of the local community, and supports the creation of a robust local food economy.