For those tired of eating fruits and vegetables that have traveled farther than the eater ever has, relief is here. Coney Island Hospital has partnered with Harvest Home Farmer’s Markets to bring local produce to the streets of Sheepshead Bay throughout the summer and into the fall.
Sheepshead Bay’s farmer’s market set up shop for the first time on July 9, with vendors lining the pedestrian median in front of the hospital (Ocean Parkway between Avenue Z and Shore Parkway). The seven vendors will hawk fruits, vegetables, baked goods, juices, nuts and olive oil every Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. until November 19.
“[The market] is part and parcel of our efforts to support a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating and reduce incidence of diabetes and chronic disease in our community,” said James Saunders, associate executive director of Coney Island Hospital.
With no farmer’s market in the area, Saunders sought out Harvest Home because he thought it would be an effective way to teach residents, patients and local seniors from the area’s six senior centers about a healthy diet. The hospital is planning a “vine-cutting” ceremony in August to celebrate the market’s establishment, and in the future hopes to add activities like cooking tips, an on-site nutritionist and patient tours to bolster health knowledge. Free health screenings are already offered on alternating weeks.
So far, organizers say the event’s been getting rave reviews.
“It was an amazing success [despite] the fact that we did not advertise it heavily [and] that it’s new to the neighborhood,” said Saunders. “It just shows me that this area is actually thirsting for this type of service.”
Harvest Home Farmer’s Market CEO Maritza Owens is also beaming about the partnership.
“The market has been great,” said Owens. “The farmers have been happy from day one. It’s been a busy market … The community has embraced it and they’re out there shopping. If you’re lucky it takes off right away and this one seems to have done exactly that.”
Harvest Home has been organizing farmer’s markets around New York City since 1993, and they already have partnerships with six other hospitals, including Bellevue Hospital, Jacobi Medical Center and Metropolitan Hospital.
“We are riding the wave of everyone wanting to have access to fresh food and knowing where your food comes from and eating locally,” said Owens. One of the criteria for farmers to be a part of the organization’s markets is that all produce must have been “taken off the tree or pulled out of the earth” within 24 hours, and all of the vendors come from the tri-state area.
The addition of the farmer’s market is Coney Island’s latest move to deepening the connection between the institution and the community, said Saunders. Just like the art exhibits they’ve been hosting for the Brooklyn Streetcar Artists’ Group (and here), the market is meant to give a friendlier face to an establishment people usually associate with illness.
“It’s part of a concerted effort to have more of a presence in the community and to support a healthy lifestyle – that includes the arts, and includes bringing in a farmers market,” said Saunders. “The hospital has been around for 135 years and people know of the hospital, and they know some of the things we do through reading about it in the newspaper. But having direct connections to the community makes it that much more personal.”
The Sheepshead Bay Farmer’s Market, a partnership between Coney Island Hospital and Harvest Home Farmer’s Market, will take place every Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. until November 19. Stalls are located on the median in front of the hospital, at Ocean Parkway between Avenue Z and Shore Parkway.