The Food Trust- City Farmers Markets and Food Education Programs

Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust and Mukethe Kawinzi, Project Manager in charge of farmers markets join me on this episode.

The Food Trust’s mission is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions. Working with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers, we’ve developed a comprehensive approach to improved food access that combines nutrition education and greater availability of affordable, healthy food.

The Food Trust was founded 20 years ago with a simple idea: healthy change.

There were neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia where residents couldn’t easily buy healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. And science shows us that people who live in these underserved neighborhoods are more at risk for serious diet-related diseases like obesity.

The Food Trust – then known as The Farmers’ Market Trust, an off-shoot of Philadelphia’s venerable Reading Terminal Market – began with one farmers’ market at Tasker Homes, a public housing development in South Philadelphia. Once a week, with the help of the Tasker Homes Tenant Council, we set up one long table overflowing with produce. It was the only source of fresh fruits and vegetables in the community. “People hadn’t seen that kind of quality produce in their neighborhood before,” The Food Trust founder Duane Perry recalls.

In the two decades since the opening of the Tasker Homes market, The Food Trust has worked with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers in Philadelphia and across the country to change how we all think about healthy food and to increase its availability. Together, we’ve brought supermarkets to communities that have gone decades without one. We’ve helped corner store owners introduce fresh produce, low-fat dairy and whole grains. We’ve taken soda and junk food out of schools, and we’ve taught students to appreciate foods like apples and cherry tomatoes.

A recent study by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health found that – for the first time in decades – the obesity rates among Philadelphia school children decreased by 5 percent between 2006 and 2010. This is one of the first studies showing a reversal of the country’s troubling obesity trends, and it suggests that together, we have found a key to obesity prevention: a comprehensive approach that combines nutrition education and increased access to healthy foods.

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