MAYWOOD, Ill. – Not too long ago, Maywood was known as a “food desert,” an area where healthy, affordable food was difficult to find.
All that changed three years ago with the opening of the Maywood Multicultural Farmers Market, which will celebrate its fourth anniversary this summer.
“Once again customers will find locally grown fruits and vegetables plus arts, plants, baked goods and other delicious, healthier treats to choose from,” said Lena Hatchett, Ph.D., assistant professor, Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and one of the market organizers.
The weekly market will feature health screenings, live entertainment, kids’ activities and tips for exercise and cooking. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., every Saturday, June through October, at the Maywood Public Library, 121 S. Fifth Ave., Maywood.
This year’s market is being sponsored by the Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood Public Library and the Village of Maywood Special Events Committee. New sponsors joining them are Dominican University and the Urban Garden Connection, a coalition of community residents who are passionate about healthy eating and increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Since its inception, the farmers market has been a nutritional lifeline to the people of Maywood, an area that has high levels of chronic illnesses that are partially caused and aggravated by poor eating and exercise habits. Until the 2010 opening of a grocery store on Fifth Avenue, Maywood was without a full-fledged market for 15 years.
“For years, Maywood residents had no access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which could help prevent serious, chronic health problems,” Hatchett said. “We’re proud that we were able to provide badly needed produce and we plan to do so for many more years to come.”
Through October, Maywood-area residents will be able to purchase low-cost fruits and vegetables, herbs, arts and crafts, flowers and gourmet items produced by local Latino, Asian-American and African-American farmers and gardeners at the market. The number of vendors at the market and the variety of offerings will widen as the growing season progresses.
“We are looking forward to a season bursting with fresh and delicious produce and we hope that many will join us to share in the harvest,” said Courtney Behrens, the market’s manager. The market will also feature gardening advice; perennial plant exchanges; tips on cooking low-fat, nutritious meals; free samples; methods to lower stress and reduce weight; fun exercises; and information on the link between diet and blood pressure and hidden fat in foods. Medical students will offer free blood-pressure checks, blood-sugar-level screenings and obesity-awareness evaluations during the health fair.
“The Maywood Multicultural Farmers Market will help us to prevent disease and to build healthy eating habits among area families, many of whom are at risk for life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure,” said Hatchett, a public health researcher who has worked for more than a decade at reducing racial and ethnic health disparities.
Farmers, sponsors, vendors, local artists and artisans willing to participate in the Maywood Farmers Market are welcome. For more information, contact Courtney Behrens at (708) 343-5637 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit urbangardenconnection.com.