Grantee submission by: Christina, Manuel, Director of Community Revitalization

How did the funding or non-monetary support you received from the Foundation impact your organization and/or the community?

The funding we received from Moses Taylor Foundation allowed us to develop the first ever year-round farmers market in the city of Carbondale. Carbondale, PA is considered a USDA food desert, which is a low-income census tract where a significant number or share of residents are more than ½ mile from the nearest supermarket. The census tract where the market is located is at 69.54% of the area median income, with 22% of families living in poverty. Thirty-five percent of market sales in 2022 were made utilizing SNAP/EBT benefits, and through this program, we can match SNAP sales with Fresh Produce Bucks, up to $20 per week per family, increasing family spending power. In 2022, our overall market sales were $32,498 with $7,486 through the SNAP/EBT program. We expect to grow significantly during the summer of 2023 with three additional produce vendors starting.

Through the market, we have been able to offer programming to the community such as the Winter Cooking Series (where local chefs and community members teach market customers how to prepare healthy meals with market products), a community garden, and youth educational activities. We also have complementary social service agencies visiting, such as the Women’s Resource Center, which can provide referrals and educational information in an informal setting.

The market is located in the same location as UNC’s Healthy Aging Campus, providing older adults with additional activities and food access and promoting intergenerational socialization. UNC’s Youths Arts programs also participate in activities at the market, and worked with our older adults and market vendors to create a community garden, providing intergenerational learning opportunities and additional fresh food.
The market has also provided local farmers with an additional venue to sell their products; and extra incentives with the SNAP/EBT Double Dollar programs, which make their products more affordable and more competitive with grocery store products.

Share a quote or anecdotal story from a client or employee of your organization that illustrates the impact of your work.

From our Market Manager, Emily Arcaro:

Since Carbondale Farmers Market opened in September 2021, we have increased in popularity within the community and surrounding areas. Within my role as Program Coordinator, I have gotten to know our vendors, customers, and community organizers. Beginning in January 2023, we launched our bi-weekly Winter Cooking Series. Our Winter Cooking Series hosts a local chef, food blogger, or restaurant at Fallbrook to display a recipe featuring items from the market.

One great feature of our Winter Cooking Series is customers can sit comfortably near the kitchen to watch and interact with our chefs. Customers can ask questions, participate in communal conversations, enjoy a sample of the meal, and are provided with laminated copies of the recipes after the demonstration. We have hosted The Egan’s Kitchen, Mattson’s Mushrooms, Kol Steakhouse, and Market Manager, Emily Arcaro.
Our first Winter Cooking Series was on Thursday, January 05, featuring The Egan’s Kitchen. Mary-Kate Egan is a local food blogger that creates recipes from items she purchases from local markets and farms.

Mary Kate has been open with customers about her own health and medical challenges and enjoys discussing how shopping at our farmers markets, and cooking with market ingredients is part of her path to wellness. She shares tips on knife and cooking safety which is so valuable to older adults. This type of community learning and sharing has been an exciting outcome at the market.

Many of our older adults and seniors with SNAP/EBT participate in the demonstration. They are happy and willing to learn new recipes to benefit their long-term health and shop for the products at the market that were utilized in the demonstration. Not only do they benefit from fresh, local products, they are part of a shared communal meal.

Carbondale Farmers Market provides healthy meal options as well as opportunities for socialization among the older adult populations. We are happy to continue to provide this resource to the community. In the summer, we will replace our Winter Cooking with friendly afternoons in Fallbrook Community Garden for the public to learn about healthy eating, maintaining a garden, and the benefits of outdoor recreation.

What do you most want the community to know about your work and/or what excites you most about the future of your organization?

One of our core focuses is to expand access to fresh, local, and affordable food in the Carbondale community. Currently, SNAP/EBT sales make up 25% of sales at the market, with it being up to 50% or more during winter months. We know that the community need is even greater and continue to expand our reach through working with complementary social service agencies, large employers in Carbondale, and other community stakeholders. We are further excited to continue making fresh, local food more affordable with the development of a revolving fund for SNAP/EBT customers to participate in a weekly farmers Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Leveraging our Moses Taylor Foundation grant, we are developing a partnership with CEO Weinberg to assist SNAP customers in buying into a CSA share program, which will allow them to pay weekly at the market using SNAP/EBT benefits and utilize the Fresh Produce Bucks to make this option even more affordable. We are currently working with Fullers Overlook Farm, Halstead Farm, and Mattson’s Mushrooms to create CSA share options. Programs such as these also help us recruit additional farm vendors to the market as they create a more reliable and steady market income for the farms. Last year, we doubled our sales weekly and we hope to double them again this year, with this new initiative.

Additionally, we are always looking to collaborate with community members interested in participating in the market. We are able to assist potential businesses in getting set up to legally participate as a vendor, have volunteer opportunities with our market activities (cooking demonstrations, community gardens, and children’s activities), and enjoy partnering with other organizations to bring in new programming to the market.