Marcia Denson Offers Pantry Clients a Fresh Look at Farmers’ Markets
On a brisk Saturday morning in October, a group of eight curious clients from New Hope Family Worship Center are taking a tour of one of the gardens run by East New York Farms. As their youth guide enthusiastically points out hot peppers, collard greens, and late-season tomatoes, Marcia Denson brings up the rear of the group, chiming in with ideas about how to cook nutritious and delicious dishes using these ingredients.
At the end of the garden tour, participants make their way through East New York Farmers’ Market, where they can purchase the same vegetables they saw growing in the garden, as well as produce and value-added products from neighborhood producers and regional farmers. “The best part of the walks is the human interaction,” Marcia says. “Clients have the opportunity to talk to the farmer and market manager rather than just buying something off the supermarket shelf.”
It’s Marcia’s sixth Market Walk of the year. On these walks, she talks about seasonality, nutrition, and government benefits available at East New York Farmers’ Market and farmers’ markets throughout the city.
Marcia says the formation of relationships and subsequently, community, is extremely rewarding as a Market Walk leader. “I have repeat people,” says Marcia. “I see certain faces during my cooking demonstrations, and when they hear about my walks, they always want to join.”
In addition to leading Market Walks, Marcia is also a Just Food Community Chef. As a member of the first class of Community Chefs in 2006, Marcia saw the impact she was making on cooking demonstration participants by providing them with nutritious and tasty ways to prepare fresh food. Hearing about even small changes in their eating habits encouraged Marcia to get more engaged in educating her community, and leading market walks was a natural next step.
“I had prepared callaloo for someone at my demo; when I came back for the walk, one of the gentlemen was very excited and said, ‘I loved that dish you made for us before, and they have it in the farmer’s market, and I’m going to try it!’ says Marcia. “It made me feel good that he remembered the preparation of the callaloo and, knowing that it was available here, said he’d come back and shop at the farmer’s market.”
Marcia is one of seven Just Food Community Chefs connecting food pantry clients to farmers’ markets this season. In addition to educating clients about healthy food options, Market Walk leaders are helping introduce local farmers to potential new customers.