During the current pandemic caused by Covid-19, public health concerns are on everyone’s mind. While contracting the virus is the number one worry, staying healthy while attending school remotely or working from home is another issue to consider. The tendency to overeat out of boredom or eating unhealthy fast food, as well as, limited access to healthy options has made this a difficult time for our diet and nutrition. According to a study by the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) 2020 Food and Health Survey, one-in-three said they are snacking more, and a quarter said they are thinking about food more than usual (Danley, 2020). Quarantines meant to prevent the spread of the virus, have many people confined to their homes and immediate surroundings. This can result in more limited access to healthy food options. Many areas are already considered food deserts and the pandemic has only made it more difficult for some to find healthy and affordable food options. I wondered what might be a viable option and whether that idea would be safe and appropriate during the pandemic?
After some consideration, I concluded that farmer’s markets could help increase the access to these foods in areas where food choice is limited and provide a safe alternative to grocery stores and large chain markets. After many businesses and services were restricted due to viral spread concerns, some areas are realizing how vital these markets can be in vulnerable communities. New York city, one of the hardest hit cities early in the pandemic, opened farmer’s markets in every borough to provide food while following extra precautions. San Francisco and Maryland are also areas where open air markets are frequently the only reliable source of food in low-income areas (Love & Storring, 2020). Some of the precautions that should be considered during the pandemic at farmer’s markets include:
- Blocking your exposure to the virus (wear a mask)
- Choose pre-bagged produce when available to limit direct contact with items
- Consider the market set-up (social distancing, proper handwashing and overall cleanliness)
- Get what you need and leave.
The characteristics of farmer’s markets might actually also make them safer than grocery stores during these difficult times. Early in the pandemic farmer’s markets were lumped in with parades and public parties but later states like California changed their minds. California declared that the state’s farmers markets were “essential to the functioning of our state” and said they “must continue,” (Linnekin, 2020). While large gatherings are discouraged, open air markets allow for better social distancing than grocery stores and shorten the supply chain resulting in less people having direct contact with the food before the consumer (Love & Storring, 2020). Farmer’s markets are helping provide food during this tough time but more work needs to be done.
In the article, “If They Only Knew: Color Blindness and Universalism in California Alternative Food Institutions” by Julie Guthman, she brings up an important point that needs to be addressed to allow farmer’s markets to be a more effective alternate food source during Covid-19 and beyond. Farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture historically are frequented by upper-income white Americans that rarely have food insecurity concerns. A more inclusive atmosphere must be created by raising awareness and opening discussions on how these food systems often exclude low-income minorities (Guthman, 2008). These are the very people who commonly need the increased access to healthier foods and inclusive farmer’s markets might be one answer to easing their growing food insecurity concerns.
Danley, S. (2020, 6 12). Eight in Ten Consumers Changed Their Eating Habits Due To Covid-19. Retrieved from Food Business News: https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/16226-eight-in-ten-consumers-changed-their-eating-habits-due-to-covid-19
Guthman, J. (2008). If They Only Knew: Color Blindness and Universalism in California Alternative Food Institutions. The Professional Geographer 60(3), 387-397.
Linnekin, B. (2020, May). Shuttering Farmers Markets Over COVID-19 Is Stupid, Dangerous, and Counterproductive. Retrieved from Reason: https://reason.com/2020/03/21/shuttering-farmers-markets-over-covid-19-is-stupid-dangerous-and-counterproductive/
Love, H., & Storring, N. (2020, April). Farmers markets are vital during COVID-19, but they need more support. Retrieved from THE AVENUE: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/04/08/farmers-markets-are-vital-during-covid-19-but-they-need-more-support/