This summer, Bronxites near Kingsbridge will have access to more fresh farm produce, thanks to the July opening of a new market close to Barn Hill Square.
The market will be the area’s fourth fresh-produce market run by youth, part of an organized effort to bring jobs to neighborhood teenagers and nutritional alternatives to local residents.
“We see this as a real plus,” said Neill Bogan, development director for the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, where a handful of students will be selected to help run the stand one afternoon each week. The teenagers will each receive $10 per hour as compensation. “Providing good job training and providing good produce is the benefit for the community,” Bogan said.
The Kingsbridge Heights Youthmarket will offer produce from New York farmers every Friday afternoon for 16 weeks, from July 7 through October 28. The market will be a joint venture between GrowNYC, an independent non-profit in the Mayor’s office which is responsible for the program city-wide, the Kings
bridge Heights Community Center and Bon Secours New York Health System/Schervier, which will provide funding and other resources.
“The goal is to provide food access to people who might not have it,” said Olivia Blanchflower, youthmarket program coordinator for GrowNYC.
The organization will also provide job training, including proper food handling and cash register operation to about six teenagers who will be selected to help operate the market.
The jobs could help boost the borough’s joblessness, if even temporarily. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in Bronx County hit 12.5 percent in April 2010, the highest county in the state. Last year the city-wide program employed 35 students across all five boroughs.
According to Giselle Melendez Susca, executive director of the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, the teenagers that will be selected to run the program will also learn about healthy eating, produce, managing funds and nutrition – skills that are hard to come by in impoverished areas of the city. Students will be selected from the center’s leadership council through an interview process that is currently underway. (Applications are no longer being accepted.) Organizers hope the effort will also promote healthier eating in the overall community.
“We’re going to use [the market] to sort of jumpstart a whole other campaign around eating and wellness so it will transcend itself to parents as well,” said Giselle Melendez Susca, executive director of the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.
Youthmarkets began in 2006 in Bedford-Stuyvesant and have now grown to 11 across the city with at least one in every borough. The Kingsbridge Heights Youthmarket will become number 12 and will be the only new Bronx addition to this summer’s list.
But it isn’t the first in the borough. The Learn it, Grow it, Eat it Youthmarket in Morrisania opened in 2007 along with a second youthmarket in Riverdale. The Marble Hill Youthmarket, located on Broadway, opened in 2009. All four markets will open in early July and run through October.
The latest youthmarket will fall under the jurisdiction of Bronx Community Board 8, which was also influential in establishing the Marble Hill market. Community board members see it as a welcome weapon to help battle the area’s health problems. “There are areas of the city that the citizens don’t get access to fresh foods,” said Robert Fanuzzi, vice chair of the community board. He described these areas as “food deserts” where a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables have led to increased health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. According to Fanuzzi, these markets are “fulfilling a broken link in the food chain.”
A 2008 report by the New York City Department of Planning found a shortage of supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores throughout the city, making farmer’s markets even more vital to a community’s nutritional needs.
To serve those needs, Youthmarkets as well as the city’s Greenmarkets accept various food stamps to facilitate the community’s access to fresh produce.
“It’s tremendously gratifying to be handing out seasonal vegetables to people,” Fanuzzi sai