Collaborating to Help Provide Nutrition Insecure Communities Access to Fresh Produce
Studies have shown that public transportation is a key driver of health and equity. And at Open Hand Atlanta, we’ve long known that, without equitable access to healthy foods, individuals and families are at much higher risk for developing chronic illness. So in 2015, we jumped at the opportunity to collaborate in an innovative food access solution called MARTA Fresh Market – managed by a partnership between MARTA and Community Farmers Markets, and supported by Open Hand, Wholesome Wave Georgia, and Food Well Alliance.
Shortly after a Hunger in America study indicated that more than 300,000 residents within MARTA’s service area lacked reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food, the first pop-up Fresh MARTA Market opened at the West End Station. After its success, markets subsequently opened at MARTA’s Bankhead, H.E. Holmes, College Park, and Five Points stations.
Fresh MARTA Markets source locally grown produce from the farmers affiliated with Community Farmers Markets, as well as several local food hubs – giving local farmers the opportunity to sell more fresh produce to consumers that might otherwise struggle to access a local farmers market. What’s more, all locations double SNAP benefits – substantially increasing the affordability of the market’s selection of fresh, healthy produce.
Open Hand Atlanta plays a pivotal role in helping to increase awareness of the markets and stimulate interest in the utilization of fresh produce among at-risk populations who access public transportation, as our Cooking Matters instructors and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists provide healthy recipes, conduct cooking demonstrations and assist shoppers in finding the most efficient ways to make use of the seasonal produce available at the markets.
Since its inception, MARTA Fresh Markets have served over 150,000 people – providing nearly 2,000 pounds of produce. In light of this success, the program was recently awarded additional funding from the USDA to expand into more underserved neighborhoods.
We’re proud of our role in the success of this important food access initiative, and look forward to working together with these wonderful community partners to create new innovative solutions that will continue to help decrease health inequities related to the lack of access to healthy food.