very Monday, Dorothy “Dotie” Page, a resident of the Poppleton neighborhood in West Baltimore, goes food shopping. There are no grocery stores nearby, so instead, Page takes a short walk to the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Community Engagement Center (CEC) for its Hungry Harvest food market, Produce in a Snap!
The Monday market allows community members to buy a mixed bag of fruits and vegetables for just $7 using cash, card, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The produce changes every week providing CEC visitors with a wide variety of healthy and affordable food options.
Produce in a Snap! is just one of several food markets open year-round that community members as well as UMB faculty, staff, and students can sink their teeth into.
During the summer months, Civic Works’ Real Food Farm sells locally grown fruits and vegetables at a reduced rate on the BioPark lawn outside of the CEC. At this market, neighbors are able to double their dollars (up to $10) if they pay with SNAP/EBT Independence cards, Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers, or WIC Fruit and Vegetable Checks.
Not only do these markets provide a place for easily accessible, healthy foods, they also expose community members to ingredients they may have never seen before. Page discovered spaghetti squash after finding one in her bag at the Monday market. She had never heard of a spaghetti squash, but now the gourd is one of her favorite dinners.
“If there are fruits or vegetables you don’t know, they will tell you how to cook them and what they taste good with,” says Page.
She is referring to the CEC staff who often help community members learn more about the produce they purchase and provide recipe suggestions and samples.
The exchange of culinary knowledge in the community will only continue to grow with the expansion of the CEC. The new building will be equipped with a kitchen area reserved for cooking demonstrations and classes.
This also will give the CEC more space to expand its community meal on the last Friday of every month. The meal, prepared by a local caterer, provides a welcoming space for community members to come together and enjoy a free, hot meal together. C