Downtown Jamaica wants to cultivate healthier community

By Juan Soto

The farmers market is back in Jamaica, and that means residents, tourists and workers in the downtown Jamaica area can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.

The open-air Jamaica’s Down to Earth Market will open Fridays and Saturdays until Nov. 21 from 8:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 160th Street and Jamaica Avenue.

Shoppers don’t just drop by the market to buy natural, fresh produce and foods from local farmers and qualified area vendors. This kind of market functions as a community because people chat with their neighbors, try new recipes and do their shopping.

“The farmers market support both the health of the neighborhood as well as the health of our area farms,” said Nicole Reed, spokeswoman for Down to Earth.

Every Friday until September there will be cooking demonstrations by Cornell Cooperative Extension, a group made up from Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture. The team will give tips and ideas so shoppers can pick up skills to make healthy lunches and dinners. The experts will only use ingredients available at the market.

And there will be free recipes to take home.

Also, beginning July 26, kids will have a blast during the Juicy Fruit Workshop. Children 6 to 11 will become artisans and make their own juices with fruits from the fresh market in this activity organized by With Food in Mind, a group that develops workshops and educational programs related to healthy food practices.

In the 20-minute, hands-on workshop, children will become familiar with color, flavor and taste. They will have the opportunity to become creative artists as they battle commercial fruit juices with high fructose and corn syrup.

And customers who receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program help can also buy fresh fruits and veggies. Vendors will have access to the Electronic Benefits Terminal at the market.

And for every $5 spent in SNAP benefits, the shopper will receive an additional $2 in Health Bucks for further purchases.

One of the vendors that will be at Jamaica all Fridays and Saturdays is Alex’s Tomato Farm, which manages 70 acres in Sprakers, N.Y., to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers.

“Shoppers buy directly from the people who produce their food,” Reed said. “They get the freshest food possible.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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