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Making Fresh Produce Accessible to Our Community

Posted October 6, 2021

Pike Place Market is one of the most popular food destinations in the world, famous for its fresh produce sold by local farmers. It’s also a thriving, caring community with a mission to support the seniors, children and families who live and work in and around the Market. That’s where the Food Access Program at The Market Commons comes in, helping establish and maintain food security for the Market community through shopping programs, education, and the Secret Garden.

The Market Commons offers a CSA (Community Sourced Agriculture) produce box program, where participants receive a weekly box of farm-fresh produce at little to no cost. This year, the CSA program was expanded in three key ways, improving the breadth and reach of the program to ensure that community members can enjoy a variety of quality nutritional foods.

“Access to affordable food and the ability for people to shop safely continues to be unpredictable and increasingly difficult in the midst of the pandemic. For our community, it creates a lot of stress and uncertainty… It’s important that they can have consistent and reliable access to healthy foods.” – Crystal Dixon, The Commons Program Manager

Extending the Produce Box Season
This year the CSA season expanded to add seven weeks of additional produce boxes, allowing participants to access produce for longer into the year. Community members also get to enjoy a variety of delicious staples throughout the different harvest seasons. The year has brought so many fun, tasty surprises: from summer crops like berries, corn, snap peas, and onions, to fall produce like root crops, hearty leafy greens, winter squash, and orchard fruit!

”You made my summer brighter, tastier, better. Thank you from all of my heart for allowing me to join this program! I was a bit shocked at the beginning about the quality and quantity of the produce – all so good, and how to use it all properly. Since I haven’t had a chance to buy quality and variety of produce on my own for years.” – Senior Resident

Adding Protein Options
Based on feedback from participants, we added a new food option in an effort to make protein items more accessible to community members and their families. This year, the program expanded to offer fresh organic eggs from a local, sustainable farm. Out of all participants, 73% elected to add eggs to their weekly pickup orders. Protein can be a difficult food group to access for some, so it was important to help make these essential nutrients more available and enhance meal options for our community members.

“It was super cool to find out that we’d be getting eggs from free-range, local farmers. The eggs are just so much better than the factory farms – the chickens get to run around, the yolks are so much tastier, and they’re not super affordable otherwise. We love them!”  – Market Community Member

Growing Program Enrollment
In response to the community’s need in the continuing pandemic and the growing popularity of the program, we expanded the number of participants who access the CSA program every season. The team at The Market Commons was able to direct outreach to various groups of people who live, work, and find community in the Market and Downtown Seattle area. Earlier in the year, The Commons team was also able to create a safe yet welcoming limited-contact pickup to ensure that Market seniors, families, and neighbors could still enjoy the locally grown goodies.

“[The produce box] was so fresh! Thank you so much for doing this program, it makes us stay on the track to stay healthy, without the program, there is no way we can enjoy such nice quality vegetables. Thank you again!” -Community Member 

Through food access programs at The Commons, the Food Bank’s grocery services and no-cook bags, and the Senior Center’s hot meal program, this constellation of services work together in tandem to help expand food access for all of our neighbors in the Market. As the community recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, The Market Commons staff will continue to connect residents to these valuable food support resources.

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