TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Frenchtown Farmer's Market is getting a behind-the-scenes facelift thanks to a nearly $250,000 grant from the USDA.
Leon County is the fourth in the state for food insecurity. The Frenchtown Neighborhood Improvement Association hopes to change that with money from a new grant to help feed this community and surrounding counties.
"It feels great to be able to put us in another position," said Jim Bellamy, the executive director of the Frenchtown Neighborhood Association. "It allows us to increase opportunities for people in the community."
After living here for decades, Bellamy knows just how dire the food situation is in the area. From the lack of fresh produce to letting some of what is available go to waste.
"It's not being utilized," Bellamy said. "It will just be turned over and go back to the dirt."
Now, with more than $244,000 from the USDA, they will not only combat food insecurity but community participation as well.
They're giving commercial kitchen access to their farmer's market vendors so they can make "value-added products," like chopping up parts of one product that they don't use and prepare it in a different way to sell.
Smarter by Nature vendors Angelique Taylor and Kip Ritchie say the timing is perfect.
"It's great timing," said Ritchie. "Value-added products are becoming a new trend in terms of food security because we want to prolong the shelf-life of fresh produce. Especially during times when people don't have access to fresh produce."
The money will also help vendors learn basics on how to run a business, get people "ServSafe" certifications to train them on how to handle food, and create pop-up markets in Gadsden and Jefferson Counties.
Vendors say it will help everybody get fed with healthy food and support buying from your neighbors, who need the money.
"Increases the longevity of farmers because it gives us a longer business than the fresh food itself," Ritchie said.
Only two organizations out of 49 applicants were approved to receive the grant, a big honor.
This is the association's second time applying.
You can check out the vendors at the Frenchtown Farmer's Market every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.