DPS launches Friday farmers markets at two schools

Charles E. Ramirez

Detroit — Like most school playgrounds, the one at Earhart Elementary-Middle School in Detroit has slides, a jungle gym and a basketball hoop.

But on Friday, there was something new: a small farmers market selling fresh produce. The two small fruit and vegetable stands were set up by Detroit Public Schools’ Office of School Nutrition and Eastern Market.

The farmers market at the Southwest Detroit school opened for the first time Friday. It’s scheduled to open 1-3 p.m. every Friday until Sept. 30 on the same spot. Another just like it is set to have its grand opening June 29 at Palmer Park Prep Academy near Seven Mile and Livernois on the city’s west side.

DPS students and staff grew all the produce it sells. Students will also help operate both markets.

“The point is to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Betti Wiggins, the Office of School Nutrition’s executive director. “The point is to engage them in growing their food and teach some them some entrepreneurial skills.”

The office provides free healthy breakfasts and nutritional lunches to all K-12 students at DPS facilities, charter schools and parochial schools in the city. It also runs several other programs, including a farm-to-school effort that works with local farmers to get fresh produce in each school and an urban farm. Funding for its programs come from federal grants and corporate donations, Wiggins said.

The market Friday offered a bit of everything from asparagus to zucchini. One stand was from Eastern Market and the other from the Office of School Nutrition.

Produce prices ranged from $1 for a bag of kale to $7 for a bag of cherries. The market accepts cash, debit cards, credit cards and EBT/Bridge Cards as payment, Wiggins said.

All produce grown for the DPS’s Office of School Nutrition is organic and comes from its Drew Farms project.

The urban farming project covers four acres in six 96-square-foot hoop houses on the grounds of the Drew Transition Center, a post-secondary vocational school for students with special needs. Drew Farms, located on Wyoming near West Chicago in Detroit, produces thousands of pounds of greens, vegetables and other produce that are served on Detroit Public Schools’ lunch menus.

“I think a farmers market at the school is a great idea for many reasons,” said Melissa Villarreal, the school’s principal. “Kids learn the importance of eating healthy. And a lot of our parents don’t always have a means of transportation to go to places like Eastern Market.”

Wanda Monsegur, whose son, Antonio, is a first-grader at Earhart, picked up half a bag of cherries for him.

“I buy him fruit whenever I go out and can find it,” said the 38-year-old Detroiter. “I’m glad to have a farmers market here in my community. I’ll be here every Friday.”


DPS Office of School Nutrition

For information about the farmer’s markets, the Office of School Nutrition, or to make donations, call (313) 578-7220 or visit http://detroitk12.org/content/school-nutrition/.

Source: DPS