Farmers Market Celebrates Cultural Diversity Through Food
Just blocks away from where Buford Highway – Atlanta’s multicultural commercial thoroughfare – passes through the City of Norcross, a crowd of adults and children gather at the Norcross Community Market. Some are browsing booths selling a variety of delicious, locally produced goods from fresh fruits and vegetables to honey and eggs. Some are tasting ready-to-eat treats such as arepas, tamales, and elote prepared by local food vendors. Others are participating in cooking demonstrations or simply enjoying live entertainment.
This market is unique in its appeal to the diverse communities that make up the city where more than 40 percent of residents are foreign-born, according to Sagdrina Jalal, Founder and Executive Director of the Georgia Farmers Market Association. Jalal’s organization developed the market in partnership with Sustainable Norcross and the City of Norcross.
In 2016, 56 percent of the market’s vendors were minority-owned by women, African Americans, veterans and non-U.S. born residents. When the number of Latino vendors increased, the market provided ServSafe trainings in Spanish to help sell prepared foods at the market.
The market is one of four in Metro Atlanta that accepts the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers issued to low-income senior citizens. For qualifying purchases and those of customers with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) EBT cards, each dollar spent is matched with a dollar added to the card. This double up program is provided through the market’s partnership with Wholesome Wave Georgia and their Georgia Fresh For Less program.
The market works to strike the right balance in appealing to diverse communities; providing residents with access to healthy food; increasing sales for local, small-scale farmers and developing local entrepreneurs while bringing the community together around food, according to Connie Weathers, Founder of Sustainable Norcross.
Through the market’s success, the Georgia Farmers Market Association and Sustainable Norcross have helped the City of Norcross understand the value of a farmers markets.
“City support has been instrumental in making this possible through in-kind support. I know other farmers markets do not have support from local government, so it makes me appreciative of what we have,” says Weathers.