Lake County Eats Local is back for a second season, hosting farmers markets in the cities of Gary and East Chicago and providing assistance to preexisting markets throughout the Region.
Lake County Eats Local is a collaboration between the Legacy Foundation, Lake County Purdue Extension, the cities of East Chicago and Gary, and the NWI Food Council. The program aims to build a more cohesive local food system and address food insecurity in Lake County.
Program Manager Marie Pittman strives to help create and sustain local farmers markets, particularly in areas that are considered food deserts. Food deserts are areas where people have limited access to healthy and nutritious foods.
“The point of this program is to provide access to fresh, locally grown produce, so we try to have as many local farmers there as we can,” Pittman said.
Lake County Eats Local creates an opportunity for community members to support a healthy lifestyle as well as generate healthy relationships between local farmers and the communities they grow for.
“I feel like that is a relationship that should always be enhanced,” Pittman said. “It’s always good to know where your food comes from and interacting with local farmers can change the way people look at the food they eat.”
Beyond fresh fruit and veggies, the markets also feature a variety of local vendors and artisans selling anything from candles and jewelry to homemade jams or juices.
“The markets benefit the small business-consumer relationship as well as the local farmer-community relationship,” Pittman said. “We hope to help stimulate the economy by giving these vendors exposure and encouraging people to buy local.”
The 2020 season includes both land-based and mobile markets running from June through October. In addition to providing healthy options for residents who might not have access to them otherwise, the markets have the added benefit of being accessible through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
“We try to make these as inclusive as possible, and all of our locations accept SNAP/EBT, debit or credit cards, and cash,” Pittman said. “A lot of times people find that their SNAP dollars can go a lot farther at a farmer’s market than at a typical grocery store, and everything they take home is certified organic produce.”
Whenever Lake County Eats Local enters or creates a new market, they provide the technical assistance to ensure that accessibility is consistent.
“Technical assistance in reference to preexisting markets we collaborate with, such as Crown Point and Miller Beach, means accepting SNAP/EBT so that the markets can be more inclusive to families in need,” Pittman said. “The Miller Market is also a pick-up location for Grounded Earth Farms online orders. During those really hot days produce boxes are stored in the LCEL refrigerated van.”
As it enters its final weeks in September and October, the market season is winding down, but there is still time to check out what Lake County Eats Local has in store. The Unity Plaza Farmer’s Market in East Chicago will run Wednesday September 23 and October 7 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Don’t miss your last chance to experience some farmers market fun and fill your home with fresh, local foods!
For more information visit https://www.lakecountyeatslocal.org/ or check out the Lake County Eats Local Facebook page for the latest updates.