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Oasis pops up in food desert in Youngstown

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Thomas Ayers of Youngstown, left, talks to representatives of GROW Urban Farm of Youngstown’s North Side as he buys fresh produce from them Thursday at the Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Program offices on Fifth Avenue. From right are Danielle Sidor, Ray Maggianetti and Max Flack. The market series continues through September at sites throughout the city.

YOUNGSTOWN — Garland Sims turned out Thursday at the Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Program offices on Fifth Avenue to buy fresh produce not far from home.

“It’s a way to get vegetables without having to go to the store,” he said. “It’s fresh and homegrown. When you do healthy things, you live longer,” the 92-year-old said.

Another shopper, Thomas Ayers of Youngstown, said he bought hot peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. “They’re all real good. You can tell because of the color of them how fresh they are,” he said.

It was the first of 20 events called the Pop-Up Market Series that will take place throughout the city this summer. It is the second year for the series, which is sponsored by ACTION, the Alliance of Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods.

Providing a place to buy fresh produce is important in Youngstown because much of the city is a food desert, meaning an area without access to quality food, said Ron Fasano, an ACTION volunteer and grant developer.

The locations selected for the pop-up markets are in neighborhoods, in high- traffic areas, and the program supports a local farm, said Vicki Vickers, an ACTION organizer. SNAP cards, WIC vouchers, debit and credit cards and senior vouchers all are acceptable forms of payment.

The produce comes from GROW Urban Farm, which is located on Bissell Avenue on the North Side. Grow Urban Farm is a division of Flying High Inc., which helps make people’s lives better economically by providing them with professional development.

It provides accelerated programs for in-demand jobs, said Jeffrey Magda, Flying HIGH executive director.

“We use the farm to grow fresh produce and to make it available to food deserts throughout the city,” Magada said. The organization helps acclimate people to the work world, often after they have been incarcerated or experienced an addiction.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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