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FreshLink Gearing up for Summer Market Season
 
FreshLink Intervention Assistant Delores Ford (left) and Program Manager Rachael Sommer with the the new FreshLink Resource Library.
The FreshLink staff is training a team of nine FreshLink Ambassadors who will be working to help promote healthy food access by spreading information about farmers' markets and Produce Perks in the Cudell, Glenville, and University Circle neighborhoods. Program Manager Rachael Sommer is overseeing the Ambassadors’ training as well as a resource library and demonstration bags to help them in their work.

The FreshLink resource library is meant to be a tool for the Ambassadors as they reach out to residents in the targeted communities about the availability of healthy food at their local farmers' market and the benefits they can receive with Produce Perks. SNAP customers can receive a $10 incentive to spend on fruits and vegetables for the first $10 spent using their SNAP card at farmers' markets. Cleveland is unique in that every farmers’ market in the city accepts SNAP benefits. In addition, 81% of markets in Cuyahoga County accept SNAP, far above the 21% average in the rest of the state and nationally.

Sommers notes “In order to start conversations with potential customers, we want to be sure we are being engaging in our methods of outreach. The resource library has interactive components such as the 'Go, Slow, Whoa' game, coloring sheets and crafts for kids, and other useful handouts such as ‘'How to store your produce' and 'What's in season each month at the farmers' market?' We hope through use of the library we will engage people and educate them about all the benefits of farmers' markets.”

Jessica Jurcak, a master’s degree candidate in Nutrition, developed all the tools, games, and food demo bags. The food demo bags contain all the items needed (minus fresh produce) to conduct a demonstration either at a farmers’ market or at a community outreach event to show customers how easy it can be to cook with fresh, local produce. The bag includes a recipe for salsa but Sommers says “We are encouraging our ambassadors to use their favorite recipes and imagination to come up with other demos as well. This will be another way to show people that the produce you can find at farmers' markets is affordable, easy to use, and most importantly, tasty! We hope it will help encourage more people to shop at farmers' markets and utilize the benefits available to those customers who currently have SNAP.”

FreshLink Intervention Assistant Delores Ford joined the FreshLink team in April. She is one of the facilitators assisting with the Ambassadors’ training, which deals with everything from how Farmers Markets work to how to interact with customers. “We are just preparing them to provide awareness through events and activities for adults and children,” she says. “We are doing group activities through food sharing, role play, games such as FreshLink Jeopardy, regarding effective communications, how to handle conflict, learning what is offered at farmers’ markets, team building, and how to handle challenges.”
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