UNCW Partners to Provide a Fresh Market for Local Public Housing Community

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

For the past two years, residents of Rankin Terrace have been able to enjoy their own private farmers' market. In partnership with the Wilmington Housing Authority, the UNCW Public Sociology program and Feast Down East (FDE) have operated their Food Sovereignty Program in the public housing community. The program brings locally grown foods to low economic families, offering a healthier choice of foods for their plates.

“We provide a fresh market on Fridays year-round for residents to purchase affordable, healthy local food using Electronic Benefits Transfer and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits card swipe,” says Erin O'Donnell, a UNCW graduate student and Feast Down East Food Sovereignty Program Coordinator. “We also provide nutrition and cooking courses using fresh local food, as well as a leadership course to train residents to operate the fresh market and build the project’s sustainability.”

This project is also O'Donnell’s master’s thesis. She explains that Rankin Terrace is located in “food desert,” meaning that the nearest grocery store is at least a mile away. In establishing the market within walking distance (many of the residents rely on city buses for transportation), offering quality food at affordable rates and accepting EBT and SNAP benefits, FDE has provided a solution to a national nutritional problem facing many urban communities.    

Joan Johnson, president of the Rankin Terrance residential organization and an FDE volunteer, said, “UNCW and Feast Down East didn’t just come over and do an assessment. They followed though and gave us what we need.”

Rankin Terrace is currently undergoing renovations. O’Donnell and others had planned to move the fresh market to a nearby location, but residents were able to sway WHA leadership to allow the market to remain at Rankin Terrace during the renovation period.  

In addition to helping the residents of Rankin Terrace, the market is helping regional organic farmers by giving them a venue to sell their goods.