Flint Farmers’ market was recognized this year as one of the American Planning Association’s annual list of Great Places in America.
The market has many great qualities. It is housed in a former printing building that was creatively reused. It’s celebrated for the variety of uses that take place within the space and credited with acting as a driving force for the revitalization of downtown Flint. But perhaps the principal reason that the market was designated a Great Public Space this year is because it brings healthy food choices to residents near downtown.
Food deserts are a serious problem in Flint. By now, most people are aware of the difficult times Flint has experienced with the decline of the automotive industry. A major side effect of that downturn has been divestment in other areas. Grocery stores are no exception to that trend. Just this year, Flint lost another major grocery store when a Kroger just east of I-475 closed its doors.
According to the USDA, many areas of the city have moderate to severe food desert conditions. You can see for yourself by searching for Flint on this map; a large number of low-income Flint residents live more than a half-mile away from the nearest supermarket. This especially burdens low-income residents with more limited mobility options who may not be able to travel as far to reach healthy foods.
Flint Farmers’ Market is helping to address these concerns in a number of ways.
The market has provided many people in Genesee County unprecedented access to fresh and locally grown foods and connect marginalized groups to healthy food choices. Market vendors accept SNAP benefits and have additional programs unique to Michigan such as “Double-Up Food Bucks” that assist poorer residents in accessing fresh produce.
Farmers markets have grown in popularity over the past decade; there are almost 8,000 that operate in the U.S. In addition to increasing access and affordability of healthy and fresh produce, they help boost local economies, support community growth, and increase awareness and appreciation for the natural environment.