Long Island has more fast food restaurants than grocery stores on record, and for those with low incomes, access to locally grown, fresh, affordable produce is severely limited. Inspired by the notion of food equity–the idea that access to fresh, healthy food is not universal and that some communities are at a disadvantage in the regional food system–Sustainable Long Island has established two farmers’ markets, one in Bellport and one in Roosevelt, to close that gap.
“It’s baffling to think about,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) from a North Bellport parking lot and future home of the Bellport Community Farmers’ Market. “Since we are such an agricultural community, that some parts of our community do not have easy access to affordable, good, nutritious food, is really unacceptable.”
Long Island has a 22 percent childhood obesity rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in under-served communities that rate goes much higher. There is a 50 percent obesity rate among the children in the Roosevelt community, according to the Roosevelt NuHealth clinic. The town only has one supermarket. But in two days, residents will have locally grown fruits and vegetables within walking distance of their homes.
“No more will they have to settle for high fat, sugar-filled snacks and meals,” said Sarah Lansdale, executive director of Sustainable Long Island. “They will now have what most every community on Long Island has, which is an option—an option for healthy, fresh food.”
The new farmers’ markets will be manned by local students from both communities and they will supplied by Long Island farms. Veterans groups will bring the produce from the farms to market.
“There’s no downside to this–everyone wins,” said Rep. Tim Bishop (D-New York).
Even the farmers.
Since the turn of the century, Bob Nolan’s farm has been a family-owned and operated business.
“This gives us another opportunity to sell our product,” said Bob Nolan, former president of the Long Island Farm Bureau. “We are very happy to participate in this and I wish the market all the best. I think it’s going to work out.”
Suffolk county farmers, including Nolan, donate more food to Island Harvest and other food banks than any other county, not only in New York State, but in the entire country.
“We all know how important it is to preserve open space here,” said Bishop. “And the best way to do that is to see to it that farmers can make a living doing something they love doing.”
The Bellport Farmers’ Market is located at the corner of Montauk Highway and Michigan Avenue and is open every Sunday, July 11-October 31 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Cash, WIC, Senior Checks and EBT Cards accepted.
The Roosevelt Farmers’ Market is located at 380 Nassau Road in the parking lot of the Roosevelt-Freeport Health Clinic and is open every Sunday, July 11-October 31 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Cash, WIC, Senior Checks and EBT Cards accepted.