By Christine Bryant
The Mid-Ohio Foodbank is partnering with the downtown Columbus Pearl Market to help feed low-income families.
Located in Pearl Alley on the north side of the Ohio Statehouse, the Pearl Market is open every Tuesday and Friday through Oct. 30 and features local produce, crafts and baked goods. New this year, market shoppers can donate part of their purchased edible items or make a monetary contribution at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank Donation Station at the market.
The partnership is a first for Pearl Market organizers.
“We have never partnered with an organization to this extent before,” said Adam Schroeder, the market’s manager. “We’ve hosted non-profits for a day or two throughout the season so that they could share information with customers, but we’ve never developed a program around one specific organization before.”
After each market day, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank distributes the produce, edible items and contributions to local community partners to feed low-income individuals and families.
Donations of produce are the biggest help to the food bank’s partner agencies, said Yolanda Owens, communications and digital media manager at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
“In our mission, it is just as important to create a healthy community as it is to create one that is hunger-free,” she said.
Of clients surveyed, 84 percent said that cost was the biggest barrier to accessing the fresh, nutritious foods they need to lead healthy lives, Owens said.
“So we work tirelessly to make sure that we can help provide these foods essential to good health,” she said.
The idea for the partnership first came a few seasons ago when Pearl Market organizers learned about a similar program at the Athens Farmer’s Market, Schroeder said.
“The timing wasn’t right for us to start a program at the time, but it was an idea that stuck with us,” he said. “We watched as the Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s produce markets grew and grew, and loved the idea of getting into those neighborhoods, but couldn’t find the connection.”
Pearl Market has an EBT matching grant program where Ohio Direction Card users can come to the market and double their EBT dollars to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables, he said.
“The more we thought about it, this program seemed like a great compliment to that,” Schroeder said. “People are hungry and we want to get fresh Ohio fruits and vegetables into their homes and on their tables.”
Last year, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank served nearly 525,000 central and eastern Ohioans through its more than 650 various partner agencies in its 20-county footprint.
If someone cannot make it to the Pearl Market, Owens said donors can help hungry neighbors access fresh produce through the organization’s Fresh Revolution campaign, located at www.midohiofoodbank.org/getfresh. The website allows users to donate and adopt a produce market in their areas.
“These produce markets provide fresh produce, breads and milk to income eligible neighbors at no cost, creating access points through our agency partners to items they would otherwise not be able to afford,” Owens said.
The Pearl Market is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 645-0561. The market is located in the alleyways between Broad, High, Gay and Third streets in downtown Columbus.