CLEARWATER – Starting Nov. 3, residents of the Clearwater’s East Gateway neighborhood will have a farmer’s market where they can go on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to buy healthy food at bargain prices, chat with their neighbors and meet people from different cultures.
It’s all because of a $20,000 grant from a federal program called Communities Putting Prevention to Work.
“CPPW is an initiative designed to make healthy living easier by promoting environmental changes at the local level,” a staff memo to the City Council explains. “The focus of the CPPW grant is to change systems, infrastructure and policies to encourage healthy eating and physical activity.”
Geri Campos Lopez, the city’s director of economic development and housing, told the council Sept. 20 that the city will just be a “pass-through” for the grant money. Initially, the city will spend about $9,000 of the funds to purchase chairs, tables, marketing materials and other start-up items for the market. These items will then be declared surplus to the city’s needs and donated to the InterCultural Advocacy Institute, which will hire a project manager to run the market. After that, the city will be out of the picture except for allowing vendors to park in a city-owned lot and providing support services such as trash pick-up.
“The Clearwater Gateway Farmer’s Market will be a vibrant community gathering place where people will discover the diversity of cultures through the sale of food and other products,” the market’s vision statement says. “The market will provide the residents of Clearwater with better access to healthy, high-quality, affordable and culturally diverse food.”
Noting that there was a lack of places where low-income residents of the East Gateway neighborhood could buy fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices, the Clearwater Gateway Farmers Market Steering Committee was formed earlier this year. It distributed 312 questionnaires (187 in English and 125 in Spanish) to East Gateway residents, nearly 60 percent of who were on some type of government-subsidized food program. It was learned that 81.4 percent of the respondents purchase their fresh produce at a supermarket, 34 percent buy it from a produce stand, 11.5 percent get it at a flea market and 10.9 percent acquire it from a farmer’s market.
When asked what factors would attract them to a farmer’s market, 74 percent said low cost, 63 percent said the availability of locally grown fruits and vegetables, 52.6 percent said location, 36.9 percent said the availability of ethnic food, 32.1 percent said the availability of other products, and 16.7 percent said they would come for the entertainment.
When asked on what day the market should be held, 51.9 percent said Saturday and 34 percent said Sunday. No weekday received more than 13.5 percent of the vote.
The market will be located on Cleveland Street, between Missouri and South Lincoln avenues. Initially, it will be open every Saturday from November through May. But in the future, that could be extended to also include October.
“The Clearwater Gateway Farmers Market meets the goals of the East Gateway Vision Plan approved by the (city’s Community Redevelopment Agency) in January 2012,” the staff memo says. “The plan calls for the creation of a walkable district and events that will attract more visitors to the district and create activities for community interaction and economic opportunity. The farmer’s market would support local businesses by expanding their customer base, creating new supply lines, providing marketing opportunities and improving their entrepreneurial skills. Furthermore, it would create a unique and positive identity that revitalizes the East Gateway District and instills neighborhood pride and a sense of ownership.”