This past summer, I had the opportunity to take the Mary Mitchell students to La Familia Verde Farmers’ Market on East Tremont Avenue between La Fontaine & Arthur Avenues.
Every Tuesday I would explain to them the purpose of the Farmers Market and why they were being given an opportunity to shop for their families. Then, I would take out a stack of health bucks and explain that it was worth two dollars ($2) each and was developed and distributed by the NYC Health Department and can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at all farmers’ markets in NYC.
When we arrive at the market, they would line up and get ten dollars ($10) each worth of Health Bucks and be allowed to freely walk around the market to shop. Usually I would take between 12 and 16 students and make sure they stick with their partners. They would walk around the market with anxious looks on their faces eager to buy foods they normally would not buy from the bodega.
Occasionally they would express their sentiments in not being able to buy something sweet so I would make sure I had enough money to but one piece of cake or a bag of mini sweets from Kevin and share distribute it out fairly. However, most of the time, they would buy peaches and blue berries and eat it right away. I always had to stop them from eating what they brought afraid that they would get a stomach ache.
Before the summer ended the students joined the local farmers, the director of the Mary Mitchell Center, Heidi Hynes, Council Member Ritchie Torres and others at a press conference held at the market to voucher for Health Bucks.
Major concerns were addressed like the diabetes rate among the elderly and children, the Bronx being the last county in New York State (among 62 counties) to eat, serve, and be served healthy food, and the importance of increasing access to fruits and vegetables for low-income residents.