North Central Philadelphia: Fresh Fruits for the Spirit]

This new Temple University program in North Philadelphia literally provides a fresh twist to Temple’s mission of ‘giving back’ to the surrounding community. Launched by Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) this program provides a gut-level service to many located several blocks west of Temple’s main campus.

Dr. Elizabeth Barber, associate dean of Temple's School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, talks about the Farmer's Market.

The Fruits for the Spirits farmers market located at the St. Elizabeth Recovery Center is a new weekly program enacted by STHM. This program offers fresh, low-cost fruits and vegetables to the community surrounding the intersection of  23rd and Berks streets.

This STHM program merges support from Project H.O.M.E, Fresh Grocer, and Korman Communities into the market that is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to Noon. The market has quickly gained popularity among North Philadelphia residents.

The men of the recovery center also pitch in their efforts. They are thankful for what the market has done for them. Darnell Travis, a resident at the recovery center, said, “Here you pay three or four dollars as to paying $10 or $15 in the store so it’s a blessing to the community”

STHM Associate Dean Elizabeth Barber, when discussing the farmers market said while laughing,“We first opened at 9 a.m. and people wouldn’t really show until 10 so we changed the opening time to 10 and the complete opposite happened.”

Funding for the entire program comes from STHM Board of Visitors Chairman Steven Korman. The CEO of Korman Communities, Korman and his wife visit the market at least twice a month to see how things are progressing. Korman’s inspiration for this program came from reading a Philadelphia Inquirer article last October about hunger and poverty in North Philadelphia.

“That’s how generous he is and that how important this mission is for him” Dr. Barber said. “We’re really just the implementers for him because this was really his vision.”

The Farmer's Market, located on 23rd St. and Berks St., started in late April.

STHM contacted Project H.O.M.E co-founder Sister Mary Scullion and scheduled a meeting about what to do for hunger ridden people residing in North Philadelphia.

“We talked about a lot of different things from cooking to distributing food or knocking on doors but when we came up with the farmers market everyone agreed that was the best idea.”

Four months of planning and meetings ultimately led to the farmers market officially opening on April 30, 2011. Although the excitement was very high the first few weeks were slow for business. While some may have been discouraged by the initial light traffic at the market, supporters like Sister Mary were not.

“She said give it about six weeks,” Dr. Barber said about Sister Mary’s opinion

This is the garden of St. Elizabeth Recovery Center. This is where the Farmer's Market is held every Saturday.

The food for this market is provided by recently opened Fresh Grocer supermarket that is located adjacent to Temple’s main campus.

“One of our partners is Fresh Grocer who loves to do things in the community and when I contacted their headquarters they were more than happy to be our partner,” Dr. Barber said.

Fresh Grocer sells the food to STHM at their cost and the market turns around and sells the food at half the price of retail. If any food is leftover by day’s end it is donated to the local store across the street and to the neighboring rehabilitation center.

The market is steered by the leading efforts of student volunteers and STHM faculty members. Every week the volunteers alternate who will be there at what time. Students receive credit toward their degree when volunteering at the market.

Joseph Yeoell, a senior technical support specialist at STHM, was the faculty member on duty during a recent Saturday session.

“This is my first week volunteering,” he said, indicating an interest in returning.

Dr. Barber says five young ladies of STHM have been consistent in being present. One even drives all the way from South Jersey every Saturday to attend and help out.

Samantha Lloyd is a student volunteer who has been working at the market since the second week of its opening. She loves the impact the market is having on neighborhood residents.

“We’re giving people a chance to get quality produce for a great price,” Samantha said with a ripe cantaloupe in her hands.

The community has embraced the market inclusive of some residents even volunteering to help. The market has built a social atmosphere stimulating a feeling of unity among residents. The collaboration of all parties involved has built great friendships, Dr. Barber said.

Michelle McFarland is a resident of the Rowan-Judson Homes who has spent every Saturday since the opening helping the market flourish. The Rowan-Judson housing is part of Project H.O.M.E.’s Permanent Supportive Housing (PHPSH) program.

“I love to volunteer my time…it brings joy and happiness to my heart to know that we are here helping people gain access to food that they normally cant afford” McFarland said.

The market plans to run into the fall. Dr. Barber is receptive to the idea of relocating the market indoors but only if the popularity of the market continues to increase ensuring its viability during the winter months.

STHM is currently working on creating another farmers market on the eastside of Broad Street since the current market is located on the westside of Broad. STHM is establishing a relationship for hosting a market site with the R.W Brown Recreation Center located on North 8th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue.



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