When was the last time you went to a farmers’ market?

Last year, the School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS) decided to bring the benefits of fresh food to the downtown area for Health Sciences Center employees local businesses and residents. SPHIS partnered with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and the Food in Neighborhoods Committee of the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement to  improve food access and have a positive impact on community and individual health.

With a weekly attendance that numbered close to 200 people and vendors reporting average weekly sales of $3,700, the effort was so successful that SPHIS is doing it again this year. Starting May 20, the market will open Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 400 block of East Gray Street, with 16 returning vendors and three new farmers. In addition to an abundance of fruits and vegetables, there will be more lunch options, blueberries, strawberries, honey, dried apples, fresh breads, poultry and beef jerky.
With all of those items available in grocery stores, why shop at a farmers market? For several reasons, including:

  • Local food is fresher than food shipped long distances from other states or countries. Produce that has been picked within a day or two of consumption is crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. You also have a chance to enjoy varieties that have been bred for taste rather than for shipping and long shelf life.
  • The environmental benefits of farmers markets are also remarkable. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. Local food, however, doesn’t have to travel far, which reduces fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions and packing material waste.
  • Local food also is about community. At the farmers’ market, you get to know the farmers and producers so you can learn where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised. By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful and fresh food.

Gray Street also is about serving the community. Existing research points out that West Louisville and East Downtown are oversaturated with fast-food restaurants and corner stores that sell unhealthy items. At the same time, the area is underserved by full-service grocery stores. These factors create what is known as a food desert. Gray Street is one of four markets dedicated to increasing availability of fresh foods to generally underserved areas. Thanks to a grant from the Kentucky Farmers’ Market Association, Gray Street has purchased an EBT/Debit machine that will allow the market to accept food stamps and process debit cards this season. This will expand access to area residents with lower income and stimulate the overall success of the market by making it easier for customers to make purchases.

Find out more about Gray Street and other Louisville Metro farmers markets on the SPHIS website. If you work on Belknap, check out the Old Louisville Farm Works market that is open on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the parking lot of Walnut Street Baptist Church (1142 S. 3rd St.). Louisville Metro has more than 20  farmers markets – and that number continues to grow each year. To find one a market close to your neighborhood go to the Healthy Hometown site.