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CityKid Mobile Farmers Market now stops at Becketwood

Posted on 26 August 2015 by calvin

Organic vegetables sold to support CityKid’s efforts to make fresh food available in south Minneapolis food deserts

by TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Drop by the Mobile Farmers Market at Becketwood Cooperative on Monday afternoons between 1 and 2pm and you’ll not only enjoy fresh, local produce at reduced rates, but you’ll help other south Minneapolis residents get access to healthy food.

It’s a win-win.

IBecketwood Tesha took_1199bSmPhoto right: Gary Ross, CityKid Enterprises Youth Specialist, helps customer Priscilla Young during the first Mobile Farmers Market visit on Mon., Aug. 17. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Pick up four ears of sweet corn for $1, a head of cabbage for $2, or an onion for $1. Proceeds from the sale of these organic vegetables benefit CityKid Enterprises. Plus, CityKid is adding other items, such as salsa, pickles and asparagus spears canned by six women—the job is making the difference in their lives between affording a house payment or not.

CityKid Enterprises is a social enterprise run by Urban Ventures. Their mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable youth and families by increasing access to healthy food through a mobile farmers market and Kid’s Café; creating employment through producing, processing, and selling goods; and educating on nutritious cooking and eating through demonstrations and classes.

“We enjoy making our produce available to others who are not low income as a way to support our efforts in neighborhoods that are dealing with food scarcity,” said Urban Ventures Vice President Mark-Peter Lundquist.

MobileMarket_JonE_sm 2Connected by Council Member Johnson
“Becketwood Cooperative residents left a strong impression with me from my visits. They are so kind, active, and engaged,” observed Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson. “The idea of a farmer’s market in their parking lot struck me as something they would enjoy, and ever since, I’ve been thinking about how best to make it happen.”

Photo left: CityKid Enterprises is a social enterprise run by Urban Ventures. Their mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable youth and families by increasing access to healthy food through a mobile farmers market. (Photo submitted)

When Johnson learned about the work of CityKid Enterprises, he knew he’d found a good match. He pitched the idea to both organizations, and they took it from there.

The benefits of this partnership are many, according to Becketwood Manager Mark Dickinson. They include financial, health, convenience, community building, and the opportunity to support a wonderful local organization.

“Many members at Becketwood have flower gardens, but few have any vegetables,” said Dickinson. “Members have a strong desire for sustainability and healthy food options.”
Plus, supporting the mission of Urban Ventures fits into the vision of the cooperative as a whole.

“The Becketwood mission has been to provide a well-maintained, financially stable housing in a beautifully wooded setting, creating a vibrant, supportive, cooperative community,” said Dickinson.

Becketwood Cooperative, at 4300 W. River Pkwy. S., was founded in 1986. A board of 10 women looking to create a new kind of housing was supported by Episcopal Church Home. They purchased 12 and a half acres of what was the Sheltering Arms Orphanage. In 1986 construction was completed and the first active, independent members age 55+ moved in.

A Mobile Farmers Market
The CityKid Food Mobile Farmers Market Truck was born when staff at Urban Ventures (2924 4th Ave. S.) decided to try to get organic produce in the hands of people in the Phillips and Central neighborhoods, according to Lundquist.

That was three years ago.

They started by working someone else’s farm, the Philadelphia Community Farm, in 2013. The next year, they launched their own operation, farming a section of land along the Midtown Greenway at the corner of S. 5th Ave. and E. 29th St. This year, they added six acres in Lakeville and an apiary. Plus, they’re planning to use an aquaponics system in their greenhouse to grow greens this winter.

MPR-8Photo left: CityKid Enterprises farms a section of land along the Midtown Greenway at the corner of S. 5th Ave. and E. 29th St. The mobile farmers market is open there several times a week. (Photo submitted)

Powderhorn resident Brian Noy operates as the farm manager, and summer workers include 14 local youth. CityKid Farm gives kids and families the opportunity to learn about agriculture and how to grow food while getting paid $9 an hour. Participants also sample produce fresh out of the soil.

“There’s a real sense of ownership that they’re showing,” said Lundquist. “They’re making suggestions on how to run the farm better. They’re not just working with a bad attitude and collecting money. They’re invested.”

Once school started in August, staff changed over. Through a partnership with Simpson Housing Services, those battling homelessness will receive food in exchange for volunteering.
“It’s a awesome thing,” observed Lundquist. “They’re struggling to pull themselves out of homelessness and yet they’re willing to volunteer to produce the food.”

Kids going hungry
Residents in the Central and Phillips neighborhoods live in a food desert (as classified by the USDA), with few fresh food options available in the neighborhood.
They face other challenges, as well, Lundquist pointed out.

Through its Kids Cafe, Urban Ventures serves 40,000 meals a year. Staff began noticing some kids coming up for seconds and thirds. “We wanted to take a look at what’s going on with hunger in the neighborhood,” recalled Lundquist.

What they discovered alarmed them. Many residents struggle with not having enough money to afford to buy three meals a day. According to Hunger-Free Minnesota, 100,000 plus meals a year are missed in the Phillips neighborhood.

Adding to the mix are social justice issues centered on the vulnerable youth and adults in south Minneapolis not having access to healthy food options.

“They can’t go to Whole Foods and plop down $3.50 for a head of lettuce,” observed Lundquist.
But they can afford a $5 bag of fresh vegetables grown and sold by CityKid Enterprises.

“It’s great,” said Lundquist. “Kids are working, and people are eating and they’re feeling good.”
The Mobile Market makes several stops each week. Find the full schedule online at http://www.citykidenterprises.org.

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