“Kept me alive”: Kent residents rely on the free farmers’ market in Walnut Park

For the past seven months on Friday afternoons, residents of Kent’s Walnut Park neighborhood have been able to purchase fresh produce and dry produce from an outdoor market. And it’s all free.

Walnut Park Market is one of four free mobile markets in South King County run by the non-profit organization FareStart.

Marian Mohamed of RadioActive lives in Kent and has volunteered with FareStart. He talked to Walnut Park residents about what the market means to them.

[RadioActive Youth Media is KUOW’s radio journalism and audio storytelling program for young people. This story was entirely youth-produced, from the writing to the audio editing.]

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When I arrived for my first volunteer shift at the free mobile market, I saw tables piled high with leafy greens, strawberries and mangoes stacked in a row and bundles of bagged rice.

People came, got what they needed and left. And they didn’t have to pay a cent.

Whenever I volunteered at FareStart’s free mobile marketplace, I saw a long line of people waiting to shop, even on days when it was pouring with rain.

One of the regulars is Annie Riggins.

Riggins has lived in Kent for more than 20 years and always has his walker, friends and bright reusable shopping bags with him when shopping.

“The need is here,” he said. “I hope they know the need and that it continues.”

Riggins said he loves this market because the location is convenient, the volunteers are welcoming, and the food is fresh and free.

“It kept me alive,” he said. “You prevented me from going to the store. I am a senior and [the food] it is a need. So she helped my life. ”

FareStart is a Seattle-based non-profit organization. It has created mobile marketplaces for communities like Walnut Park to have access to fresh, free produce without hindrance.

At this time, FareStart operates one mobile market in Kent and three in Auburn. According to the FareStart research, Kent and Auburn have some of the priority needs for food assistance in South King County.

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We ate a lot healthier. Like, meaningful. And I think a lot of that is due to the market.
Barroso Thai

Meg Viera is the director of community initiatives at FareStart and her team oversees the operations of the mobile market. You say the market is part of the local landscape of services that support food safety and access to fresh produce.

“We are trying, with the mobile market, to fill in the gaps, and it is almost geographically, for those people who are not close or have no access or have transport problems,” Viera said.

Funding for the market comes from individual donors, corporations, foundations, and the Washington State Department of Agriculture. That money helps FareStart partner with Washington farms to bring local food to markets.

Viera said FareStart prioritizes purchasing food from farms run by black and indigenous farmers and other black farmers.

“We have been very successful working with Living Well Kent and their other partner, Wakulima USA,” said Viera. “They also help us understand the desired and preferred ingredients and products that can enter the market in the communities they’re working in.”

The variety of products offered by the market allows shoppers like 18-year-old Thai Barroso and her mother to take home vegetables, fruits and grains that they wouldn’t otherwise.

“We ate a lot healthier. Significantly, “Barroso said.” And I think a lot of that is due to the market. Because we don’t have to go through the hassle of going to the supermarket and picking up vegetables there. And I think fresh fruit and vegetables have become so expensive, it was just one more reason to go out and eat healthier because we don’t have to pay. “

The FareStart mobile market project is still in its pilot phase. Bryce Harvey, head of the mobile market, says they are always looking for ways to reach more people.

“We continue to market in various locations, to work with different organizations and simply to refine and understand what works for us in terms of the mobile market,” said Harvey. “And we are continuing to do so right now. And we hope to expand to other locations soon as well.”

Nidal Kedal usually comes to Walnut Park market with her son. Kedal has lived in Kent for five years and discovered the mobile phone market from a flyer posted at the local YMCA. He says the market has been beneficial as food prices have risen.

“You know the prices are going up now, everything is so expensive. It’s hard, “Kedal said.” This is a cool product. He helped many, like my friend, my neighbor, they were satisfied with it “.

Local resident Abdul Bangura agrees. And, he said, he has found more than just access to food in this market.

“It’s also really nice to be connected only through food,” said Bangura. “Since I’ve lived here for so long, I’ve seen so many different phases of this neighborhood. So, for me, it’s like a breath of fresh air just to get in touch with the people who are my neighbors.”

This market has made a huge difference in the lives of Walnut Park residents in less than a year. Manager Bryce Harvey says Kent residents can continue to find the market at Walnut Park Townhomes, 24817 112th Ave SE, Kent, WA 98030, every Friday from 3pm to 4pm

But as the name suggests, the mobile market isn’t permanent. He may move to another location in Kent in the future as FareStart learns how to best meet the needs of community members.

This story was produced in Radioactive Youth Media‘s Advanced Producers drop-in workshop for high school and college kids. Kyle Norris Production Assistance. Edited and prepared for the web by Kelsey Kupferer.

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