WakeMed farmers market opens for residents, visitors, employees

06/10/2014 6:48 AM

02/15/2015 11:26 AM

The organizers of a weekly farmers market at a Southeast Raleigh hospital want to help community members stay healthy by giving them access to fresh, local foods.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals last week launched the market in the outdoor courtyard of its Raleigh campus off New Bern Avenue. The market is geared toward nearby residents as well as employees, visitors and patients.

Donald Gintzig, president and CEO of WakeMed, said the market is part of the system’s mission to promote overall community health that goes beyond treating patients once they walk through the doors.

“We’re committed to making Wake County and Raleigh the healthiest communities in the country,” he said.

On opening day at the market, vendors lined the edge of the courtyard offering fruits, vegetables, jams, nuts and more, as patients and employees scoped out the offerings.

Karen Varga, a WakeMed dietician who toured the market that afternoon, said its goals align with the advice she gives patients.

“I always tell my patients that the more they can choose fresh fruits or vegetables rather than the handful of chips, the more nutrition they are giving to their bodies,” she said.

Residents in much of Southeast Raleigh live in what’s called a “food desert,” a designation that takes into account whether an area is low-income and how far residents must travel to a grocery store.

Two Kroger grocery stores left the area about 18 months ago, and many community groups and businesses have been looking for ways to restore resident’s access to fresh foods.

City councilman Eugene Weeks represents the area and said it’s important for residents to have choices besides fast food or convenience stores. The market is a good option, especially because the hospital sits on the bus line, he said.

“I see it as a place that will blossom,” Weeks said.

John Whatley, a patient at the hospital, said he was glad to make a trip down to the courtyard with his wife, Alison.

“I was excited to hear about it,” he said. “It gave me something nice to see.”

The market accepts EBT cards as well as debit and credit cards. WakeMed also will offer two-for-one market match vouchers to those with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

WakeMed still is accepting vendors for the season, which lasts through Aug. 26. The market at 3000 New Bern Ave. is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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