Reclaiming the Big Apple: The Urbanization of Fresh Food Access in NYC

The South Bronx Farmer’s Market (SBFM): A Market for the People by the People

by: Amanda Kay Mannshahia

One of the world’s most iconic cities, New York is known for its skyscrapers, civic attractions, and most importantly, its exceptional cuisine. But how does such an urban, yet food focused city get access to fresh produce year-round? This series will focus on various projects in NYC that pledge to increase access to fresh produce, while taking into consideration the needs of various communities and their values.

Let’s begin our journey in a part of New York that is often neglected by the tourists and home to one of the city’s most turbulent histories. The Bronx is not necessarily the first place on your list of foodie favorites for NYC, especially regarding its reputation as one of the most underserved communities in the nation. Despite it’s tainted past, there is a strong thread of community activism running throughout the borough.

NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene provides bilingual cooking demonstrations every market day from July to November
NYC Dept of Health & Mental Hygiene provides bilingual cooking demonstrations every market day from July-November.

Recently there has been a push by activists to address issues of fresh food access and community education. Nestled on the south side of 138th street, between Willis and Alexander Avenues, the South Bronx Farmers Market, SBFM, is the perfect example of this growing trend. In the non-profits mission statement, Co-Founder’s Lily Kesselman and Rosanne Placencia-Knepper stress the need to “address the communities rising public health issues by promoting access to nutritious, affordable, locally grown produce.”

Kesselman also points out that “the market provides a sales platform for regional and urban farmers.” At 25 dollars a pop, community members are able to rent out a space at an affordable cost, connecting farmers with the under-served population of the South Bronx.

Fresh greens/bread at one of the South Bronx Farmers Market vendors
Fresh greens at one of the market’s vendors.

A local project, La Finca del Sur, or Farm of the South, is one of the market’s original vendors. The first urban farm cooperative in the Bronx, La Finca took its name to reflect the Latina heritage of many of its farmers. Closely aligned with SBFM’s mission to promote urban agriculture, Kesselman says, “The market allows La Finca to have an income and get’s people to come to the farm, which also offers a lot of local programming for women.”

Completely volunteer run, except for one paid youth, SBFM received its first grant from the Citizen Committee in 2010 and has been self-sustaining ever since. Renting out space to wholesale farmers allows them to make a small profit to keep the project going.

Fresh bread at one of the South Bronx Farmers Market vendors
Fresh bread at one of the market’s vendors.

Only in their second season, the South Bronx Farmer’s Market certainly has a bright future ahead. With sights set on expanding operations, the market’s first step is in promoting free educational, food-related programming for the community by partnering with NYC’s Dept. of Health and Hygiene to offer community-cooking classes up until November of this year.

You can find the South Bronx Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 10am to 4pm up until it’s season ends on November 21st.

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