North Country Healthy Heart Network has worked with schools and communities across Franklin County for many years to increase access to affordable, nutritious food for all age groups. Rural municipalities and school districts in Franklin County are frequently isolated from bigger grocery stores and farmers markets, thus limiting access to healthy, fresh produce. Healthier food options help lower the risk of chronic disease and improve health outcomes. Students need nutritious food to perform their best at school, and the tools and education to incorporate healthy living into their lifestyles. Over the last five years, the Heart Network has worked to pass dozens of worksite wellness, school wellness, and vending policies, assisted with CSPAP, and utilized a variety of strategies to address issues of food access and nutrition. Four strategies in particular have netted positive results: the Mobile Farmers Market, school garden programs in Malone, the Fruit and Veggies campaign in Hogansburg, and new and enhanced school breakfast programs. In this post, we highlight the impact of the Mobile Market; stay tuned for more highlights in the coming weeks.
The Mobile Farmers Market, a joint program between the Joint Council on Economic Opportunity and the Heart Network, started as a stationary farm stand as a worksite wellness initiative 2017. This program became mobile in 2018 with one bus making 12 stops per week. Between 2018 and 2019, the market’s popularity and reach expanded dramatically. Sales increased by 55 percent and the use of farmer market vouchers rose by 64 percent. In 2019, two greenhouses with hydroponic systems were built as part of a sustainability plan.
COVID-19 threatened to close the 2020 mobile market season, but the market opened on time with strict protocols to keep customers safe. Site stops have increased to 24 and salad bars are available on both buses. A partnership with the Field and Fork Initiative gives SNAP participants the bonus of double up food bucks, doubling the amount that can be spent on produce.
Stay tuned for more CHSC success stories.