Bloomingdale Bites

Jonathan Bardzik leading a cooking demo in May.

Food Markets Swing into Season

As the weather warms up for the summer, several Bloomingdale food markets are selling the fresh fruits and vegetables local customers love. First, the Arcadia Mobile Market is bringing its iconic green school bus back to the LeDroit Park-Bloomingdale area to deliver local meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, dairy, bread, fish, and granola. The local farmers-market-on-wheels organization makes nutritious food more accessible by selling fresh foods at community centers and senior living facilities.

Fresh food from the mobile market is available to low-income DC residents. Arcadia accepts federal food assistance vouchers such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). As a bonus all federal food access program dollars are doubled by a matching program run by the city and various nonprofits. The Arcadia bus parks at 3rd and Elm streets on Wednesday afternoons, now through the end of October.

Down the street, the long-running Bloomingdale Farmers' Market continues to offer an array of locally grown and produced food options. Now in its eighth season, the market offers food classics such as fresh greens, eggs, meats, tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, and root vegetables. In addition it offers locally sourced food products like cheeses and fermented vegetables; one producer combines the two ingredients to sell grilled cheese sandwiches with kimchi.

"We're getting more customers every year, said market director Robin Shuster. “We have a great diversity of customers of different incomes and backgrounds: long-time residents, new residents, whites, African-Americans, Asians, straight, gay, singles, families, babies to seniors.” The Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market “is a wonderful community gathering space for the whole neighborhood,” declared Shuster. The customer base is also changing. “I'm seeing a lot of people with kids now and babies, a lot of family formation in the market,” she added. “It's a nice mix of old and new customers.”

Like the Arcadia mobile market, the Bloomingdale market participates in food access programs such as WIC and Food Stamps. At the moment, the market is participating in the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, which is supported by food nonprofit DC Greens and organization Wholesome Wave. As part of the program low-income families and at-risk DC residents who receive a fresh-food prescription from their healthcare provider can purchase food at their local farmers market (as a “farmacy”). This year the program has expanded to include four health clinics and eight farmers markets, including the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace and the Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market.

“We have a robust food access program at [Bloomingdale Farmers' Market] because we want everyone in the communities around the market to be able to buy fresh, healthy, local foods,” said Shuster. “Every fruit and vegetable farmer accepts WIC and seniors and Produce Plus; every producer participates in our SNAP food stamp program. No exceptions.”

The market is becoming annually more interactive and educational. It hosts acoustic-only music sessions throughout the day, and it also brings in local chefs and producers to host informative cooking demonstrations. “The cooking demonstrations are educational. They help teach people how to cook the wonderful food that we have at the market,” said Shuster. “It's our goal to have a program every week.”

Additionally the market continues to offer a bicycle repair clinic every week, which is operated by volunteers from Bike House, a bicycle repair coop based in the District. In the past year Bike House volunteers repaired more than 300 bicycles at the Bloomingdale market. Every weekend local bicyclists have the opportunity to visit bicycle workshops across the city to work with an experienced bike mechanic to learn how to repair their bicycle themselves.

“We do love working at farmers markets when we can,” said Alex Bea, communications clerk and a board member of the Bike House. “The community is really strong, people find us who wouldn't have otherwise, and incidentally there's often a source of pastries nearby to fuel our work. The fact that [Bloomingdale Farmers' Market] is still a key location for us is a testament to its place in the community and the strength of that market.” He added that “the Bike House really is driven by a desire to help our neighbors, strengthen biking in DC and empowering people with skills to help themselves. The fact that the visitor can learn how to do the work themselves is key, both to our operation as an all-volunteer organization and to the success of our mission.”

Shuster said that it's not too late to sign up to sell your produce or food product at the Bloomingdale community market. “We're always looking for vendors,” she remarked.

Shoppers at the Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market.

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