Farmer’s Market Mayhem

In recent years, the Tuscaloosa farmer’s market scene has undergone several changes. The Tuscaloosa River Market was opened, the Tuscaloosa County Farmer’s Market moved to Northport, and Homegrown Alabama was made available in collaboration with the University of Alabama.

The farmers provide healthy food options for the citizens in Tuscaloosa, but the split causes some issues with clientele access to the markets.

“The farmers already help enormously by participating in Federal Food Nutrition programs, which provides vouchers to seniors and low-income residents,” Oths said. “When the established farmer’s market moved to River Market, they gained many new clients, but lost many of the low-income citizens that frequented the old market location.”

In general, according to Oths, the farmers provide fresh produce to any citizen in need at a bargain price, but the different locations of the markets cause issue with food access for many residents.

Many of the residents of Tuscaloosa have found transportation to get to the Northport Farmer’s Market, however, and despite the issues with locations; the split has worked out relatively well for the produce market.

Homegrown Alabama is yet another example of innovative ideas aimed at catering to the lower-income bracket. The farmer’s market, located on the UA campus, offers an EBT Food Stamps incentive program.

According to the website, to improve the incentive to purchase healthily and locally, Homegrown will give EBT patrons $5 for every $10 they spend at the market. Homegrown Alabama has also made it a mission since opening in 2005 to incorporate Alabama-grown food into student meals at the university.

While farmer’s markets, food banks, agencies, and studies all help to decrease unequal access to food, as well as the number of individuals who are food insecure, the larger Tuscaloosa public must take action for visible progress to be made. Even small actions help, like conscientiously shopping for locally grown food. Larger voices, such as speaking up to councilmen about what is needed in certain areas of Tuscaloosa, are needed to progress.

“Our task is tricky because these individuals living in low-income areas, parents and children alike, are dealing with a lot,” Turner said. “Parents work 2-3 jobs, and children don’t have the resources to do a lot.”

This makes it all the more crucial that those with the resources to make change, do it, according to Turner. The late Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

By educating the community about food insecurity, the community can in turn improve the food insecurity around them.