The Fondy Food Center (FFC) was started to support a historic market on Milwaukee’s Northside after a food security assessment identified the market as a key source of fresh produce in this food insecure neighborhood. Fondy Farmers Market was the first market in the state of Wisconsin to accept SNAP/EBT and is a nationally recognized leader in connecting with low income shoppers – in 2016, more than $67,000 in SNAP benefits were redeemed at the market, and FFC raised more than $50,000 to double up shoppers’ federal nutrition benefits for fruits and vegetables! Leveraging lessons learned at the Fondy Farmers Market, FFC is now leading a multi-sector coalition of farmers markets, healthcare organizations, and government agencies to connect more diverse and low-income people with more of Milwaukee area farmers markets.
FFC now operates market year-round, and in more spaces, with the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market and the Schlitz Park Farmers Market creating more ways to improve fresh, local food access for all Milwaukeeans while supporting small farmers.
In 2010, after several of Fondy Farmers Market’s primarily Hmong refugee farmers dropped out of farming, FFC started the Fondy Farm Project. This was a direct response to learning that the small family farmers wanted to continue farming, and selling at the market, but did not have access to affordable, long-term leases on quality land. The Farm provides access, not only to land, but also to the resources, infrastructure, and support needed to operate a successful farm business. In 2016, the expanded to a second location and now serves more than twenty farm families.
The Fondy Food center’s mission is to connect Greater Milwaukee to local, fresh food – from farm to market to table – so that children learn better, adults live healthier, and communities celebrate cultural food traditions.
Recent History of the Fondy Farmers Market
A 2009 Community Food Assessment found that eighty-nine percent (89%) of food retailers were convenience stores, fast food restaurants, gas stations, and food pantries. The primarily African American residents of Milwaukee’s Northside are disproportionately affected by poverty (the US Census reports poverty rates of 30% above the national average) and diet-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The tide is turning, with help from partners like Alice’s Garden and Walnut Way, yet Fondy remains one of the few sources of affordable, healthy, fresh food for the neighborhood.
Farmers Markets are associated with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables—which, in turn, is a behavior associated with a decreased risk of diet related chronic diseases. But nationally, farmers markets only make up 0.01% of total national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) electronic benefit transfer (EBT) (aka electronic food stamps) sales, compared to other store types. And the majority of the markets that do accept SNAP/EBT only have a small number of sales to low income consumers using SNAP/EBT. One major exception is the Fondy Farmers Market, whose total SNAP/EBT sales in 2015 reached over $57,000, compared to nationwide average of $4,628 per market authorized to accept SNAP/EBT. Fondy is truly responding to a community need—more than 53% of families in Fondy’s neighborhood receive SNAP benefits.
The Fondy Farmers Market was the first in Wisconsin to accept SNAP/EBT benefits and was also the first farmers market in Wisconsin to provide a dollar-for-dollar match to market customers using their federal nutrition benefits through our SNAP Market Match & WIC farmers market nutrition program Market Match program. Each year, fundraising dollars are committed to support the Match—in 2015 the $30,000 in matching funds were exhausted in just a few weeks. This demonstrates the need and desire for local, fresh produce in the neighborhood.
From May to November the market is home to more than 30 local farmers and food producers. As one of the largest producer-only markets in Southeastern Wisconsin, the market’s fundamental purpose is to provide the community with a place to buy fresh produce directly from producers in a congenial atmosphere and to provide producers with a direct market for their goods. Further goals include education about and support of regional sustainable agriculture.
Fondy Farmers Market is the centerpiece of Fondy Food Center’s efforts to promote access to wholesome food in central Milwaukee and beyond. Now Fondy operates more than one market, two farms, and organizes a coalition with farmers markets and partners across the county to ensure that ALL Milwaukeeans have access to fresh, local food.
Fondy Food Center believes that small family farms are an essential component to growing a socially just, economically viable and environmentally sustainable local food systems. In operating farmers markets, our goal is to support small entrepreneurs and stimulate the local economy. We are committed to making educational and economic connections between urban residents and local farmers.