It was exciting, if somewhat incongruous, to hear this week that Plymouth is the recipient of a generous grant, one of the provisions of which is “increasing accessibility, availability, affordability and identification of healthy food in the community by … establishing healthy retail environment, reducing food deserts, … and increasing farmers markets”*. In a strange irony, this award, from the Center for Disease Control, and under state administration as Mass in Motion, was announced at the top of a Select Board meeting, which was otherwise dominated by community anguish over the parlous existence of our heretofore exemplary market.
How to increase access to healthy local food through farmers’ markets? This is the way the Massachusetts Community Transformation Grant Project Narrative goes on to describe the implementation mechanism: by ”working with their local Mass in Motion coalition to – 1) identify needed community resources, 2) develop and implement a bi-directional communication plan that actively links patients (consumers), primary care providers (food-producers) and participating community organizations, and 3) change policies, systems and the environment in the community to better support healthy eating and active living.”
More ironic than the timing of the grant announcement would be the too-late arrival on the scene of a body whose purpose is to develop just the kind of comprehensive, well-thought-out policy framework for healthy eating that must include Plymouth’s gem of a farmers’ market as a sustainable, growing part of that vision. We encourage Plymouth’s leaders to approach the current dilemma from the broadest possible perspective, with the aim of expanding the opportunities for both shoppers and vendors, rather than contracting the vision to the pinched scope of the current RFP. The question is not ”what can happen at Stephens’ Field on Thursday afternoon?” but, “how do we make sure the people of Plymouth get all the access to fresh local foods that they clearly want and deserve?” As was observed by wise persons at Tuesday’s meeting, Plymouth is a big town, and there are seven days in a week.
edible South Shore
*http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/eohhs/healthcare-reform/grants/sec-4002-4201-core-community-transformation.pdf (Accessed 24Jan2012. Emphasis added)