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Free mobile farmers market helping address food insecurity in Yellow Springs

A line of fresh fruit and vegetables at the Mobile Farmers Market in Central State University. The fruit, like a pineapple in the foreground, sits in cardboard boxes. Women in red shirts are working around the boxes.
Alejandro Figueroa
/
WYSO
A line of fresh fruit and vegetables at the Mobile Farmers Market at Central State University.

Since May of this year, The Dayton Foodbank has been holding a free monthly farmers market at First Baptist Church in Yellow Springs. It's a new effort that comes after the food bank identified Yellow Springs as an underserved area for households experiencing food insecurity.

Every third Thursday of the month, Katie Heinkel helps set up and manage the farmers market in Yellow Springs at the First Baptist Church on Dayton Street.

There, she and volunteers for The Dayton Foodbank give out fresh produce, baked goods and frozen foods to anyone that might need it. Much of the food is donated to the Foodbank or rescued from grocery stores by volunteers.

It's all part of the food bank's Mobile Pantry, which also has other locations in Greene, Preble and Montgomery Counties.

Heinkel said people might think of Yellow Springs as a more seemingly affluent community. But a recent study done in partnership with the University of Dayton and The Dayton Foodbank identified Yellow Springs and other parts of Greene County as underserved food insecure areas.

“You never know what your neighbor is going through,” Heinkel said. “There might be a medical bill that is just devastating or they're taking care of another person. And so their money is tight and they don't always have the money to spend on basic needs.”

The study — referred to as a service gap study — is about evaluating the impact of food insecurity in the communities the Foodbank serves. The new Yellow Springs mobile market is the result of the analysis, which helps the Foodbank respond to communities that might need the assistance, according to a press release.

Greene County has a 12% food insecurity rate, according to 2019 data from Feeding America, slightly higher than the national average at 10.5% as reported by the U.S Department of Agriculture.

A more permanent solution is creating partnerships with local organizations such as a food pantry or kitchen already addressing food insecurity in the community, but establishing a mobile pantry is the first step in serving areas in need, according to Heinkel.

Heinkel said what’s more important is breaking the stigma of reaching out for help, particularly for food assistance. Part of the work involves having more open conversations about it. To see the reality of need in a community, she suggests volunteering.

The Foodbank offers many ways to take action and become involved, such as volunteering at its urban farm or at mobile farmers markets like the one in Yellow Springs.

“There's a lot of people that are just struggling,” Heinkel said. “So I think opening the discussion and starting the conversation on normalizing and reducing the stigma in general is just where we need to start.”

Food reporter Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.