|Photos by Wes Hilton|
It’s a sweltering day on Tabor Road, but temperatures in the high 80s aren’t keeping eager shoppers away from a brand-new farmer’s market across from Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia (EMCP). People from the neighborhood and scrubs-clad Einstein staffers cluster around two pop-up canopies, picking and choosing from among the wide array of fresh produce spread out across red checkered tablecloths.
There was a huge selection: fat New Jersey tomatoes, ripe, deep purple plums, juicy watermelons, pale green frying peppers, and many other locally sourced fruits and vegetables. Cash, Philly Food Bucks and WIC cards changed hands. There was a lot of chatter. It seemed like an urban bazaar.
“It’s great to see so many out here choosing fresh produce,” said Adeena Menasha, LiveWell health and wellness program leader at Einstein. “Einstein employees and people from the neighborhood, all side by side. They are walking away happy.”
The folks selling the produce, from McCann Farm in Monroeville, N.J., were just as happy. They could barely keep up with demand, unloading their truck and restocking the tables from beginning to end. “It’s a great thing for people,” said Nancy McCann-Foy. “We were shocked and impressed at the number of people who came up. They were so appreciative. They said, ‘Take your time, we’re just glad you’re here.’”
The market—which will sprout up across from EMCP’s Tabor Road entrance every Tuesday from 2 to 6 p.m.—also brought a smile to the face of Katy Wich, product manager for the Farmers’ Market Program at The Food Trust. The Food Trust is a Philly-based nonprofit dedicated to providing access to affordable, nutritious food and information on how to eat healthy, particularly in neighborhoods where fresh foods aren’t always available. More than 25 farmers’ markets are sponsored by The Food Trust throughout the city.
The Food Trust once sponsored a farmers’ market relatively nearby, initially at the Olney transportation Center right around the corner, and then later relocated to a space in front of Philadelphia High School for Girls, on West Olney Avenue. “It never worked out that well,” Wich said. That’s why opening a new farmer’s market across from EMCP is so gratifying. “We know that in most of the neighborhoods around here, there is not enough access to fresh food. This market is much easier to get to, and it also helps local farmers.”
Recently, Einstein’s Center for Urban Health, which has been conducting research to promote healthy eating in the community surrounding EMCP for more than six years, joined forces with The Food Trust to help them set up shop in the new location.
Working to bring about that partnership was Tina Phipps, PhD, director of the Center. Einstein Benefits and Wellness Department and the Center hosted a farmer’s market on the medical center’s front lawn a few years ago, Phipps said, and it was very successful. “We were interested in doing it again and got a group together, including folks from the Einstein Facilities Department. We contacted The Food Trust, and they were excited about it, too. With support from Lynne Kornblatt, chief human resources officer, we were able to bring the market to the medical center.”
What makes the EMCP farmer’s market stand out is that it is designed to bring together local residents with Einstein employees. It’s not unique—there are other farmers’ markets at other medical centers in Philadelphia—but it’s an important addition to the EMCP neighborhood. “Healthy eating is a cornerstone of health,” said Phipps.
The Center for Urban Health has enrolled households in the neighborhood surrounding EMCP in programs to provide financial incentives as well as healthy eating information to promote the purchase of produce at the Fresh Grocer market near the LaSalle campus. “We’ve shown the incentives can help jump-start changing in purchasing,” said Phipps, “but longer term work is needed to sustain those changes.”
The new market ties into the Center’s mission quite nicely. But at the same time, the project helps address another concern, one that happens to be closer to home. “We are also interested in promoting healthy eating in our employee base,” said Phipps.
BettyAnn Patton, director, Benefits and Wellness at Einstein, echoes those sentiments. "We continue to look for ways to help employees eat healthier. It's exciting that we are now making it easier for them. Now, they can walk out on campus and find sweet and delicious locally grown fruits and vegetables. I look forward to my purchases each week."
When the day finally came that the trucks laden with fruit and vegetables rolled up Tabor Road and the tents went up across from the EMCP campus, Phipps was thrilled. “It was fantastic to see it happen,” she said. “It’s one of the high points of my career at Einstein.”
Check out a recipe for Black Bean and Corn Salad, samples of which were distributed on the market's first day.