MARTA Pilots Farmers Market at West End Station
(APN) ATLANTA — MARTA commuters will now have easy access to fresh, farm-grown produce; the public transit authority has opened a weekly “pop-up produce market” at the West End station.
The Fresh MARTA Market is open every Friday from 2pm until 6pm through October 2015. The grand opening was held on Friday, July 17, 2015.
MARTA conducted a survey and found that 75 percent of West End residents and MARTA customers said they would likely buy produce at the station.
Three partner organizations make the market possible: the Southwest Atlanta Growers Cooperative, which operates a market in the West End on Sundays; Community Farmers Market, which operates four markets in different neighborhoods throughout the City of Atlanta; and Food Oasis, a program supported by a host of other organizations, including the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
“A lot of times people refer to the West End as a food desert, in the sense that when you’re hungry at any hour and you want to get something local, it’s going to be something fried or something prepared really quickly. There’s not a lot of options at all beyond fried chicken and McDonald’s,” explains a West End resident in a video on the Food Oasis website.
Food Oasis seeks to tackle the food desert problem with a multi-pronged approach that includes supermarket “coaches” who help shoppers make healthy choices, as well as cooking demonstrations and urban farms.
The Fresh MARTA Market accepts EBT cards from the food stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and provides a two for one match, doubling the amount of fresh produce customers can purchase dollar for dollar.
The market opened for business on July 10, 2015.
“It went really well. Some people got bags of groceries and some people just stopped by to get a few peaches because they wanted a snack. The vast majority of shoppers were people getting on and off the trains, so it’s definitely serving the population we envisioned,” Cicely Garrett, a spokesperson for Food Oasis, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Garrett said the market is technically still a pilot program, but every indication suggests that it will reopen next year and possibly expand to more stations.
However, not everyone has a rosy view of the Fresh MARTA market.
Sister DeBorah Williams, director of the Mother Clyde Memorial West End Garden (MCMG), and prior candidate for Atlanta City Council District 4, has publicly criticized MARTA’s decision to hold the market on Fridays at the same time that MCMG is open.
“Fresh MARTA Market is down right divisive,” she said in a statement.