The pandemic economy is upending life as we know it, with daily challenges ranging from the small and inconsequential to the large and seemingly insurmountable; and even more yet-to-be-known long term consequences looming ahead. Accessing fresh fruits and vegetables is quickly becoming one of those daily challenges in this time of necessary physical distancing. While events are rightfully being postponed or canceled, markets must be considered separately as we seek to ensure access to healthy, fresh food for all our community residents.
For many, going to the local supermarket is no longer an easy or safe option and those able to afford grocery delivery services often face days-long wait times. This means that as spring arrives, open-air markets are taking on greater significance and must be considered an essential service.
In New Jersey, our markets not only provide direct community access to farm-fresh produce, they are vital to serving our nutritionally at-risk populations through the WIC and Senior Nutrition programs. Additionally, many markets also accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), providing access to nutritious foods for New Jersey’s low-income families.
GrowNYC, the non-profit that organizes the dozens of markets found throughout the five boroughs, updated its city-wide guidelines earlier this month to reflect the need for stricter controls to enhance public safety. At the popular Union Square Market, staffers utilized additional barricades to help manage the flow of shoppers while also implementing additional personal safety measures such as a “no-touch” rule preventing shoppers from touching produce. These new rules model an effective way to manage change in this new normal.
For more details on how New York City is approaching market safety and access, check out this excellent post from GrowNYC: https://www.grownyc.org/blog/farmers-markets-deemed-essential-businesses and timely New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/nyregion/coronavirus-greenmarkets-nyc.html.