Fresh MARTA Market a ‘success,’ plans for expansion

Cicely Garrett (left) helps Banesha Campbell purchase fresh produce at the MARTA Fresh Market on Friday, July 10, 2015 at MARTA's West End station. (Erica Hernandez/erica.hernandez@ajc.com)
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Cicely Garrett (left) helps Banesha Campbell purchase fresh produce at the MARTA Fresh Market on Friday, July 10, 2015 at MARTA's West End station. (Erica Hernandez/erica.hernandez@ajc.com)



After calling its first pop-up produce market a “success,” MARTA is optimistic about expanding its market venues.

MARTA launched Fresh MARTA Market, its first weekly pop-up produce market, on Friday at its West End station. Almost 200 customers shopped for fresh fruit — peaches, apples and lemons — and produce — kale, okra and potatoes.

The West End was chosen as the premiere location because of a MARTA survey. More than 75 percent of West End residents and MARTA customers who responded expressed interest in a fresh market at the station.

Cicely Garrett (left) helps Banesha Campbell purchase fresh produce at the MARTA Fresh Market on Friday, July 10, 2015 at MARTA's West End station. (Erica Hernandez/erica.hernandez@ajc.com)

Cicely Garrett (left) helps Banesha Campbell purchase fresh produce at the MARTA Fresh Market on Friday, July 10, 2015 at MARTA’s West End station. (Erica Hernandez/erica.hernandez@ajc.com)

“While the West End is not a food desert, there is a lack of access to fresh produce and fresh fruit,” said MARTA spokesperson Saba Long.

The pop-up market operates outside the station each Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. through October. The market accepts cash, credit and EBT payments, as well as the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) two-for-one match, which doubles the amount of fresh produce customers can buy dollar for dollar.

Long also said there has been some early discussions about a market at Five Points, but it depends on the community’s interest.

“There is a plan to broaden this,” Long said. “This is a pilot project. We want to see how much this is received by the community and if there is interest to do this in other MARTA-service areas.”

In partnership, Food Oasis at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Community Farmers Market and the Southwest Atlanta Growers Cooperative will manage the market.

Last Friday was just a smaller version of what customers can expect each week.

“We didn’t super advertise it,” said Cicely Garrett, food systems innovation manager at the Atlanta Community Food Bank. “We almost sold out of everything.”

This Friday, the day of the official launch and ceremony, shoppers can expect more food variety — which comes from local West End growers, at least one extra tent from the two it had last week and a cooking demonstration space.

Garrett said the local growers are paid for the food the market harvests from them, despite whether it sells. The market also tries to set affordable prices, such as pricing food by the number of items instead of pounds. For example, customers could buy items like apples and oranges at three for $1.

“The goal is not to make a profit,” she said.

Shoppers also have the opportunity to go on a community bike tour. Every third Friday of the month at 4 p.m., WeCycle Atlanta will lead a $10 tour from the market to five local farms.

Garrett hopes MARTA can duplicate what its doing at the West End at all 37 stations.

“It shows people the full circle of the supply chain,” Garrett said. It’s good for people to know where their food comes from. It’s good for people to know what is available to them in their local community.”

Making more opportunities like these accessible for community members, Long said, is important to MARTA.

“As a public transit system, it’s imperative to look at ways to improve the customer experience and to improve the community,” Long said. “And this is a great example of that.”

Friday’s official fresh market launch and ceremony will start at 2 p.m.

– Blog post by reporter Kendall Trammell, kendall.trammell@coxinc.com.


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