AVON — Senior citizens and the local food pantry both had a special day at the Avon Farmers Market Wednesday.
The seniors were invited to use the Nutrition Checks they received July 19 at the Senior Nutrition Building, and donation baskets were made available to benefit the Avon Food Pantry. Those who participated in either were instantly entered into a raffle.
This event was just the first part of a larger project developed by SUNY Geneseo student Melissa Graham, who has set out to increase public interest in the farmers markets within Livingston County.
“The point is to reach groups of people that might not normally come to the market,” said Graham. “Also to increase attendance at all the markets, and promote the food pantry.”
Graham said she saw the opportunity as a win-win situation for both the farmers and the community, since it increases sales and ensures the pubic receives a supply of healthy food.
Another one of Graham’s goals was to get the markets themselves involved in the local food pantries.
“Food that they don’t sell will go bad,” she said. “So we take that to the food pantry and they can use it right away.”
Since the project began in June, more than $100 worth of produce has gone to the Geneseo Food Pantry as a result of her efforts.
Graham is the recipient of the Community Advocates Ambassadorship in Community Engagement grant, awarded to her from SUNY Geneseo, and said she was inspired to create the project after doing volunteer work at an organic farm last summer, where she said she fell in love with farming.
“It’s not something I would want to continue with as a career,” she said. “But I look at the farmers and realize all the hard work they put forth, as well as how much people could benefit from farmers markets, and how they are not utilized as much as they could be. If I could spark a little bit of interest, I think it would benefit the community as a whole.”
Later this summer, she plans to hold similar events in towns across Livingston County- including “Bring Your Kid to the Market Day” in the Mount Morris and Dansville Markets. She hopes to reach out to local schools to organize field trips to these markets, which would be funded through her grant money. Graham is currently working with the Lima and Nunda markets to organize events much like the one hosted in Avon.
National Farmers Market Week begins August 6. Graham is planning an event to take place at the Geneseo Market.