My Catawba County

Healthy Eating Made Easy

Healthy Eating Made Easy

For the past ten years, Catawba County Public Health has operated a farmers market in its parking lot. In line with its mission to help improve the health of the community, the Public Health market provides easy access to locally grown fruits and vegetables and is especially convenient for families who receive farmers market spending vouchers from Public Health’s Women’s, Infants and Children (WIC) program. To learn more about the market and how it benefits the community, we caught up with Jeremy Stockton, WIC Director and Catawba County Public Health Farmers Market Manager.

What is the Public Health Farmers Market, and when and where does it take place?
We are excited to offer the community an opportunity to purchase fresh foods and enjoy family-friendly activities for the 10th year in a row at the Public Health Farmers Market. The market operates each Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. from June through September. It is held, weather permitting, in the Public Health front parking lot at 3070 11th Ave. Drive SE, Hickory, NC 28602. Conveniently located off Fairgrove Church Road, behind Catawba Valley Medical Center, the market has ample parking and is accessible by Greenway bus. We have special activities planned each week to celebrate the market’s decade in operation, including visits from the Catawba County Library to Go, games, drawings and more.

With ripe summer crops like tomatoes, squash and zucchini, beans, peaches and berries, the market’s main goal is to offer a convenient way for people to purchase and consume farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. It is open weekly to the public and cash, debit cards, SNAP/EBT, WIC and senior farmers market vouchers are all accepted. This year, thanks to generous funding through LiveWell Catawba, people using SNAP are able to receive Double Bucks, which double these shoppers’ purchasing power by matching the amount they spend dollar-for-dollar. Families using farmers market vouchers will also receive a matching amount through Bonus Bucks, which extend these families’ access to healthy fruits and vegetables throughout the summer.

Who operates the Public Health Farmers Market?
Throughout the season, around 70 members of the public health team will help set up, break down, handle money or provide behind-the-scenes assistance to the market. Everyone who works for Public Health is encouraged to participate and we are grateful that more than half of our staff have eagerly signed up to help make the market a success year after year.

Why was the Public Health Farmers Market started?
The market was considered with the health of Catawba County in mind. With the overall rise in obesity, and the last several Community Health Assessments identifying healthy weight and healthy foods as a top health challenge, we knew that increasing consumption of nutritious fruits and vegetables could help address this. We are also home to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program, which is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The WIC program emphasizes healthy, nutritious foods and has extra opportunities for clients to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables through farmers market vouchers, which extend families’ ability to purchase local foods.

The Public Health Farmers Market is especially important to the neighborhoods near us, as we are located within an area that is considered a “food desert,” meaning that some people may have a more difficult time purchasing fresh foods due to the distance to the nearest grocery store. By having the market here in the summer, we are able to bridge the gap for those families.

How successful has the market been in achieving its mission?
Thanks to strong participation last summer from our shoppers, the Public Health Farmers Market served 2,485 customers and brought in more than $18,000 in non-cash revenue for our local farmers.  Since starting the market, Catawba County WIC consistently has one of the highest (and often the top) farmers market voucher redemption rates in the state.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the Public Health Farmers Market?
Good nutrition is a building block for healthy individuals, healthy families and a healthy community. The Public Health Farmers Market helps more people in our community have convenient access to nutritious foods, and we hope the market continues to be a great source of healthy foods for our community for many more years to come.