Nonprofits – Inside the box: Schenectady Greenmarket prioritizing access to healthy food

The Schenectady Greenmarket bustling with shoppers on a Sunday morning in August 2020.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
The Schenectady Greenmarket bustling with shoppers on a Sunday morning in August 2020.

In its continuing effort to provide fresh agricultural produce to local community members, the Schenectady Greenmarket will be offering low-cost food boxes beginning next spring.

The new program is being supported by The Schenectady Foundation, which in mid-October announced that it has awarded $450,000 in grant funding to six nonprofits that are leading projects to reduce hunger and improve access to healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods.

The Schenectady Greenmarket will use $20,000 it has received toward its food-box project, which is currently in its planning stage according to SGM market manager Cheryl Whilby.

“It is modeled after the Fresh Connect food program,” Whilby said. “We will try to make sure we pay farmers a fair market price [for their produce], and make that available to low-income folks and EBT [Electronic Benefits Transfer] customers.”

The SGM food-box program is among those The Schenectady Foundation invested in as part of that organization’s Healthy Food Access for All initiative. The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, Schenectady Community Ministries, Rotterdam’s Messiah Lutheran Church, The Food Pantries for the Capital District and Capital Roots are also receiving grant funding from The Schenectady Foundation.

“We’ve made access to healthy food our top priority,” Robert Carreau, The Schenectady Foundation’s executive director and secretary, wrote in an email to the Daily Gazette. “Being able to connect local farm produce with residents in our community is an excellent way to support our food system while meeting the demand of customers for affordable, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.”

Whilby said The Schenectady Foundation has been a big supporter of the Schenectady Greenmarket with its donation of masks and hand sanitizer, and with its group of volunteers who have gone above and beyond to provide a safe and welcoming environment.

“They have been a huge help,” Whilby said.

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The Schenectady Foundation’s financial assistance will enable the Schenectady Greenmarket to offer food boxes at what Whilby said would be no more than $14 for a large box of 10 to 12 items and $10 for a smaller box of five to seven items.

“[The food-box program] is part of a larger initiative to make local fresh options more available and affordable to our community,” Whilby said.

That initiative includes transportation to and from the Schenectady Greenmarket for those in need. Another initiative has to do with reaching out to Black and brown community members who have an interest in vending products at the Schenectady Greenmarket, which operates Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside City Hall from May through November, and inside Proctors from December through April.

The vending application process takes place twice a year prior to each seasonal session.

“We are trying to reach out to the community,” Whilby said. “We are trying to make sure market space is welcoming to all of our community members.”

The Schenectady Greenmarket, which was established in 2008, offers more than food.

“While at the Greenmarket we prioritize making food available, we also have other vendors [wine, herbs and spices, flowers, jewelry, artwork, candles are among the other items that are/have been available],” Whilby said. “It’s an opportunity for people to present themselves to the community.”

More information about the Schenectady Greenmarket can be found at Schenectadygreenmarket.com.

Schenectady Greenmarket
Year Founded: 2008
Mission: To build a future in which Schenectady Greenmarket is an integral part of downtown’s cultural landscape, connecting farm and city to create a responsible, sustainable food system.
Area served: Schenectady County
Quote: “We are trying to reach out to the community. We are trying to make sure market space is welcoming to all of our community members.” — Cheryl Whilby, market manager

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Categories: Life and Arts, Nonprofits 2021

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