A delicious alternative to the ice cream truck

Recently, my daughter's public school in New York City launched a weekly after school farmers market for kids and parents. Many people in the "good food" world know how hard it can be to get a project like this going. This market was no exception. It resulted from years of hard work on the part of a couple of dedicated parents who worked with the school administration and the dining staff to get fresh healthy food integrated into the school and the curriculum. These visionary partners forged relationships with local chefs, such as Grammercy Tavern's Executive Chef Michael Anthony, to create  Cafe Days hosted by Wellness in the Schools. Cafe Days teach the children cooking skills, straight from the world's best chefs. The team also integrated healthier alternatives on the school menus. They formed a Wellness Committee so that other parents could help and they got recycling and composting at the school, too.  

But the dream of providing the kids with fresh local food at an after school farmers market always seemed too far away - until we heard about their dilemma and connected them to Greenmarket Co. My company, Watervine Impact, is dedicated to connecting food and agriculture enterprises with customers and other key resources to help them grow. Greenmarket Co. is the local food wholesale distribution service run by the city's farmers markets and managed by GrowNYC. Greenmarket Co. agreed to supply the school farmers market with farm fresh, local and often organic and sustainably grown fresh fruit, eggs and vegetables. The new school market will run one afternoon a week. The market was mobbed on its first day and sold out of apples, tomatoes and asparagus in less than a hour. Children sampled apples and peanut butter donated by a local peanut butter restaurant, Peanut Butter & Co.

Chances are, if you are thinking about farmers markets and schools, you probably know something about why fresh food is great for kids, but do you know why a market like this is great for farmers, too? 

Greenmarket Co. sources from small and mid-scale farms in the northeast region — mostly from NY state, but also from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maine. Farms range from a 300 acre vegetable farm utilizing conventional growing practices, to a 200 year old fruit orchard utilizing integrated pest management (IPM), to small organic vegetable farms, organic grain and bean farms, egg producers and dairies. These are farmers who grow enormous amounts of food, but are often either too big for a farmers market (also known as "ag in the middle"), or too small to have enough to sell every week and are new or beginner farmers. When a school program buys regularly from these farms, it allows the farmers to have a stable and predictable market for their good food. It saves farmland, too.

This market teaches the children about business enterprise - both because they are running this market themselves and because they see farmers providing products for resale and they learn about the supply chain. The children learn about good health and good taste, too, because fresh food tastes better. Families can trace their food supply straight from the farm to the schoolyard.

And that's a delicious new after school snack that is likely to give the tired old ice cream truck at the edge of the playground a run for its money.

By Margaret Gifford, Watervine Impact

No reproduction without permission from the author. © 2015