While setting up the Fresh Access tent at the North Side Farmers Market in early June, a young couple came up to me to use their ACCESS card to buy tokens.
Since it was a little before 3:00pm, which is when the market opens, we could not serve them just yet. However, as we waited for the opening market bell to ring, we started a conversation on how they started using Fresh Access and why they shop at the farmers markets.
Meet Mark and Amanda:
Why do you like coming to the North Side Farmers Market?
Mark: I feel like in the summer there is no point in going to a grocery store when you can have fresh, organic foods. You know, they have the best nutrients and it’s the best thing for you. I feel like with going to the store you never know what they are spraying on stuff, you never know what pesticides, or how long things have been laying out. They are not the best option. If you could have fresh, straight from the farm that would be the best thing. I feel like nutrition is lacking especially with people living in poverty.
How did you get introduced to farmers markets and fresh produce?
Mark: I got introduced when I was going to school at CCAC probably five or six years ago. I started coming and I have been coming back since.
Amanda: I was introduced through Mark. I think it’s really important to come to farmers markets because there are different vendors and at least you know where things are coming from. They tell you up front that there are no pesticides on it and that it’s fresh. The stuff is just better for you—better nutrition and it helps your body.
How long have you been using Fresh Access?
Mark: I have been using it probably since it started.
Amanda: Just this year. I just started coming.
How has using the Fresh Access program been for you?
Mark: It has given access to fresh, organic foods without the astronomical price tag attached to it. And I feel like helping small businesses is what Pittsburgh is about—this is one of the central things that Pittsburgh brings is a market. You always need to support the small businesses because that is what our economy is made out of.
Amanda: He kind of stole the words out of my mouth.
Amanda wants to go to school for nutrition, she is passionate about holistic eating and its relation to mental health. Mark works in IT and speaks to recovery groups. He mentions Fresh Access to his peers and talks about the benefits of eating healthy. I asked them to elaborate on how their passions relate to coming to the farmers markets.
Amanda: I just want to say that I think it’s important that people come here because a lot of times medical professionals like doctors get the whole thing mixed up with sugars being bad. Some sugars are bad for you like refined sugars, table sugars, added sugars, and processed stuff. When you come here, those are good sugars [from fruits and vegetables]. They help you rejuvenate and nourish your body, and help fight off the underlying causes of your issues.
Mark: Recovery is a process but you start the healing process with the nutrition in your body.
Amanda: And from then on you can continue to recognize what’s going on in your body. It all starts in your gut and if you are taking care of your gut, you are taking care of your mental health.