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Increasing Healthy Living in North Carolina Communities:
Eat Smart, Move More Community Grants
2012-2013

Catawba County Uses Resources to Address Food Deserts

Catawba County Health Department received the 2012-2013 Eat Smart, Move More Community Grant to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the establishment of farmers' markets targeting at-risk individuals in areas designated as food deserts. Catawba County is home to sizeable food deserts impacting both rural and urban areas. Implementing curb markets in two of these high-need areas increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables among the county’s minority, low-income, urban and rural populations.

The two new farmers’ markets established were the Farmers’ Market at Center United Methodist Church (CUMC) and the Catawba County Public Health Farmers’ Market (PHFM). The CUMC market is located in a rural, low-income area and targeted local residents. In the first ten week season, the market hosted almost 2,000 customers. The PHFM market was located in a more urban area and targeted low-income and diverse populations (both urban and rural), including WIC, health department, and hospital clients and visitors, as well as local residents and workers.

To get the markets started, project organizers recruited growers to sell at market, purchased all equipment and materials needed to establish the markets, created promotional and educational materials for the markets, managed the market and conducted surveys to gather feedback from market customers.

In the first year the markets showed the following results:

  • Farmers’ Market at Center United Methodist Church: Eighteen vendors participated in the market over the 2012 season, with an average of five per week and a peak of 10 during the summer months. The market saw a daily average of 95 customers during the summer months, with a high of 120 customers, and an average of 50-60 customers during the fall months.
  • Public Health Farmers’ Market: The market hosted 1,986 customers over 10 weeks (may include repeat customers), with an average of 198 customers weekly and a peak attendance of 285. Numbers were determined by a farmers’ market volunteer who counted the number of market customers weekly with a clicker.

Partners for the project included:

  • Catawba County Public Health
  • Catawba County Public Health’s WIC Program
  • State WIC office and the NC Department of Agriculture
  • Catawba County Health Partners
  • Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina
  • NC Cooperative Extension, Catawba County
  • Conover (NC) Farmers’ Market and Downtown Hickory (NC) Farmers’ Market
  • Eat Smart, Move More Catawba County – includes representatives from Catawba Valley Medical Center, Frye Regional Medical Center, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Catawba County Schools, Newton-Conover Public Schools, Hickory Public Schools, Merchants Distributors Inc., Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, Stretch and Grow (local nonprofit), Early Childhood Support Team, Broome Insurance, Catawba County Planning & Parks, Western Piedmont Council of Governments, Catawba County School Nurses, Catawba County Government, and community volunteers
  • More than 20 local farmers, growers and market vendors
  • Community Transformation Grant Project, Region 4

The farmers’ markets have been a success to the community and well-received by customers. One farmers’ market customer said: “Before the farmers’ market opened, I ate mostly frozen fruits and veggies because I don't like the fresh produce at the local grocery stores. I've loved the farmers’ market offerings and tried some new things like the small plums and the little yellow cucumbers, both of which I enjoyed very much. I am so grateful to the farmers for taking all the trouble to grow and bring their wonderful produce to market. I don't see how it's worth it to them to do this, considering how little they charge. I would buy more if I could consume it, but it's all I can do to use up what I buy each week.”


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