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Farmers Market Program Helps People Gain Access To Fresh Foods

USU Extension's booth at the Ogden Farmers' Market where visitors can donate food they bought at the market.

Recently, when talking with Lacee Hemendez, she introduced the Buy Produce for Your Neighbor program that is at some farmers' markets around Utah. Joining me today is Kayla Lane, Weber County Create Better Health Ambassador, to talk more about this program.

Kailey Foster: Why don’t you start by explaining what the Buy Produce for Your Neighbor is.

Kayla Lane: The Buy Produce for Your Neighbor program, very simply put, is essentially a healthy food drive. But it's more than just a food drive because it is the food drive that originated here in the state of Utah.

A Cache Valley Ambassador came up with it back in 2018, when they were trying to address several problems surrounding hunger in the state of Utah. Up in Cache Valley, they came up with the idea to run this food drive at the farmers market to collect local produce donations from local farmers to local food pantries.

It supports our local economy. We are shopping locally and supporting local farming because we are purchasing from our farmers. It also supports local food pantries because the food stays local and supports the local food pantry patrons.

KF: I understand that Ogden Farmers' Market will be participating in this program as well- what can market-goers expect to see at the market?

KL: At the Ogden farmers market, we are going to be in the farming section. And our booth is going to be located on the corner of Grant Avenue and 25th Street right as you enter into the farming section- it will be one of the first foods you see when you get there. We will have a great big banner there that says Create Better Health Buy Produce for Your Neighbor. Hopefully, we are going to be easy to find.

You can come up to our booth. We will have ambassadors there to talk with you about the program. And you can walk the market, buy some extra produce while you are there, and then stop back by our booth on your way out to drop off your donation. And as soon as the market is over, we deliver those donations directly to the Tri-City Exchange program in North Ogden to be distributed to local families in need.

KF: What have been some challenges that you had to overcome in setting this program up?

KL: The biggest challenge comes all the way down to issues with COVID-19. Due to closures and policy changes, many pantries could not open for us on Saturdays. This was an issue because Extension does not have a way to keep the produce from spoiling over the weekend until the pantry is open. We had a hard time getting around that and figuring out how to keep the produce fresh and finding a pantry that would be willing to open for us.

We got lucky when we contacted the Tri-City Exchange. They were willing to come and open their refrigerators for us right after the market so the food stays as fresh as possible.

Kailey Foster is a senior at Utah State University studying Agricultural Communications, Broadcast Journalism, and Political Science while also getting a minor in Agribusiness. She was raised in the dairy industry in Rhode Island where she found her passion for the agriculture industry as a whole. Here at USU, she has held various leadership positions in the Dairy Science Club and the local Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. She also also served as the 2020 Utah Miss Agriculture and is currently the 2021 Utah Ms. Agriculture. Here at UPR, she works on agriculture news stories and she produces agriculture segments such as USU Extension Highlights, the Green Thumb, and Ag Matters.