The Fondy Farmers Market is Milwaukee’s largest and most diverse farmers market and the springboard for the agency’s healthy food efforts. The open air market creates space for the community—shoppers of all ages, organization representatives, artists, and performers—to connect with each other, and the more than 30 producers who sell at the Market from May through November. In 2014, more than 51,000 people visited the market—primarily drawing from on Milwaukee’s North Side.
Nowhere else in Milwaukee will you see such a diverse mix of customers and farmers, making Fondy Farmers Market a true intersection of food and community. There is a true air of celebration at the market—with live music, good food, and festive entertainment. Fondy’s events promote health through heritage, such as the weekly “Seasonal Soul” Cooking Demonstration, which features neighborhood chefs cooking up healthy, produce-based Soul food as well as other cultural food traditions.
FILLING THE NEED FOR FRESH FOOD
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, Walnut Way, and soon Outpost Natural Foods, 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 2014 reached $48,392, 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 the only farmers market in Wisconsin to provide a dollar-for-dollar match to market customers from the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) farmers market nutrition program (FMNP) through our WIC Market Match program. Each year, fundraising dollars are committed to support the WIC Match—in 2014 the $20,000 in matching funds were exhausted in less than two weeks. This demonstrates the need and desire for local, fresh produce in the neighborhood. This year Fondy is thrilled to be expanding the matching program to include SNAP/EBT and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition vouchers!
Fondy Farmers Market is the centerpiece of Fondy Food Center’s efforts to promote access to wholesome food in central Milwaukee and beyond.
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 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 the farmers’ market, 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.