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Grant to TNP to provide greater access of fresh produce to kids

WARREN — Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership has been awarded funding from the United Fresh Foundation through its 2020 Community Initiative Program to increase children’s access, selection and consumption of fresh produce at home, on weekends, during the summer, while out to eat or any other time outside the traditional school day.

TNP will manage $5,000 over a one-year period to provide incentives to four independently owned convenience stores in Warren.

In collaboration with TNP and Warren City Schools, four corner stores — SmartMart Food Store, Lucky 7 Food Mart, Lit’l Macs Food Store and Shadi’s Food Market — are all committed to participate in the grant by accepting vouchers, each good for one designated healthy food item, from children when buying fresh produce.

According to TNP’s annual report, released last week, nine locally owned convenient stores now offer fresh produce , including six newly built relationships, and a shared commitment to improving food security in Warren

and changing the

narrative around what convenient stores offer in the community.

In partnership with Warren City School District, vouchers will be distributed to children in grades 7 and 8 that are in the after-school program at Willard, Jefferson, Lincoln and McGuffey middle schools. Additional distribution will be geared toward children who use the middle school and high school food pantry.

The selected convenience stores, each located near one of the city school district’s K-8 schools, also will benefit from economic development opportunities such as monthly incentives from the vouchers they collect. Convenience stores offering fresh produce helps to alleviate the gaps of food access within a 5 to 10-mile radius, according to TNP organizers.

TNP’s Healthy Food Access Coordinator Christian Bennett notes, “Children should not have to experience the injustice of not having access to affordable healthy foods within our neighborhoods. We have to continue to fight for behavioral and systematic changes, so our youth can reshape their mindsets on healthy eating and living.”

TNP released the Warren Community Food Security Strategic Plan in 2017, which identified impediments to healthy food access and emphasized the need to take a multi-faceted approach to working within the food system including supporting urban agriculture, farmers markets, and partnering with existing retail nodes like corner stores to increase fresh food offerings.

Late last year, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership received a $197,452 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help market fresh food grown by local farmers.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program grant will facilitate marketing and technical support to farmers markets in the Mahoning Valley. The three-year grant also seeks to build capacity and long-term sustainability through the creation of the Mahoning Valley Farmers Market Network. The grant will be administered by Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

The network will collaborate with farmers market managers and vendors and promote best practices in marketing and food safety in support of the overall farmers-market system in the Mahoning Valley.

Sponsors hope that farmers markets will be able to increase their capacity and promote a critical piece of the food system in the Mahoning Valley, where many residents lack sufficient access to fresh produce.

“Many folks in the Mahoning Valley are still unaware that there is a plethora of fresh and local foods being sold in their communities by way of farmers markets,” said Cassandra Clevenger, TNP community resource coordinator. “Through this support for farmers and markets to accept more forms of non-cash payment and emphasize promotion, TNP seeks to collaborate within the local food system to make sure our local farmers markets are successful and sustainable.”

Since 2010, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, through its GROW and Warren Farmers Market programs, has worked to mitigate the impact of food deserts in Warren and Trumbull County through its GROW, Warren Farmers Market, and other programs.

According to TNP”s annual report, the Warren Farmers Market at Courthouse Square saw an increase in sales and attendance in 2019. The total sales were reported at $31,108 and average attendance was reported at 201 weekly. The market held over 40 cooking demonstrations, provided free transportation in partnership with Second Baptist Church, live music by the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County and free weekly yoga class sponsored by Body Bliss Connection LLC.

The Warren Farmers Market works with various partners to accept a variety of payment programs that are designed to make fruits and vegetables more affordable to low-income individuals, seniors, and those with long-term chronic illness.

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