Farmers markets here give families healthy help

Posted: September 29, 2010

Hunger, obesity and poverty plague many neighborhoods in the city, which is something that Shearine McGhee, 31, and a mother of two, knows all too well.

"It has been hard for me to provide for my family," McGhee said. "I don't want to feed my kids Oodles and Noodles every night."

Philadelphia has a poverty rate of 25 percent, according to an economic report released yesterday by City Controller Alan Butkovitz. That ranks higher than Chicago (21.6 percent), Los Angeles (19.58 percent) and New York City (18.7 percent).

McGhee said that living on government assistance and income from her job as a medical assistant makes it difficult to provide food for her two children, let alone healthy foods.

"I want them to have a fruit and vegetable every day," she said, "but that can be expensive."

Her job got slightly easier yesterday with the opening of the Point Breeze Farmers Market, at 22nd and Tasker streets. It's the fourth of 10 farmers markets to be opened by 2011 as a part of the Get Healthy Philly initiative, a two-year program promoting healthy eating and increased physical activity in the city.

Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz said that the farmers markets will help fight hunger and obesity.

"For a long time, folks have believed that if we made healthy foods available, people won't know what to do with those foods - that is ridiculous," Schwarz said. "People who have healthy food available buy, prepare and eat healthy food. We just have to help them afford it."

McGhee and the 25,000 mothers participating in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in Philadelphia will receive an annual $80 voucher for use at a local farmers market, whilefood-stamp recipients also can benefit from the Philly Food Bucks program.

The new initiative, sponsored by the Food Trust and the city's Health Department, gives food-stamp recipients $2 in coupons for every $5 in food stamps spent at participating farmers markets.

Food Trust worker Nicky Uy said that the markets are a great way to find out about recipes for new foods.

"It's a rare opportunity that you get to talk to the person growing your food," Uy said.

"With these markets you get the chance to do that, and they often can give you neat recipes."

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