Evaluating the South Memphis Farmers Market as a Strategy to Improve Access to Healthy Foods: Lessons from 2011
AbstractLimited access to fruits and vegetables is an issue for many low-income and minority neighborhoods and likely plays an important role in the development of health disparities. Local farmers' markets are a growing response to low-quality food environments, but can improve food security only if they are sustainable over the long term and broadly accessible to residents. The South Memphis Farmers Market emerged as one of the first actions from a participatory neighborhood planning and revitalization effort involving local nonprofits, neighborhood residents, and faculty and students from the University of Memphis in 2010, and maintains a local advisory committee to help tailor operational decisions to the neighborhood context. This paper is based on 2011 data from an ongoing mixed-methods evaluation of the market, designed to assess whether it is meeting the goals outlined in the neighborhood plan in terms of serving as an accessible source of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whether any changes to market policies are necessary to ensure its sustainability. This paper examines ethnographic data collected during participant observation in advisory committee meetings and during market hours, and quantitative data from an end-of-season survey of market shoppers. The analysis suggests that the market is expanding neighborhood access to produce, and that the guidance provided by the advisory committee has been essential to this success. It also highlights possible barriers to access and potential policy interventions to address them.
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