July 07, 2010

Senator Gillibrand And Congressman Tim Bishop Join With Sustainable Long Island And Long Island Farm Bureau To Launch Seasonal Job Program For Local Students

Two Youth-Run Farmers’ Markets Will Create Seasonal Jobs For Local High School Students While Making More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Available In Underserved Communities

North Bellport, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tim Bishop joined Sustainable Long Island and the Long Island Farm Bureau to launch a new seasonal jobs program for local students in Roosevelt and North Bellport.  The Community Youth Farmers’ Market program will create two youth-run farmers’ markets, which will create seasonal jobs for local high school students while making more fresh fruits and vegetables available in underserved communities.

Senator Gillibrand is the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, and is helping lead the fight in the Senate to combat child obesity and promote good health. 

“Obesity and diabetes rates are reaching crisis proportions in our country and it is time to take aggressive action,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “By improving access to fresh produce to communities across Long Island, we can give people the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, save billions in health care costs, and create good-paying jobs.” 

“These farmers' markets will provide much-needed summer work for local youth and help underserved communities enjoy the many benefits of fresh produce,” said Congressman Tim Bishop.  “This program will be a model for improving access to healthy fruits and vegetables throughout Long Island.”

The USDA has found that 23.5 million people in America lack access to a supermarket within a mile of their home.

Customers patronizing corner stores often find retail prices as much as 49% higher for a selection of food long on canned goods and short on fresh meat and produce.   Many communities on Long Island lack access to healthy and affordable food for a number of reasons, including: limited availability of grocery stores, inaccessibility of existing stores, high cost of healthy food options, neighborhood safety and limited individual resources such as time, income and transportation.  Lack of access to healthy food can lead to high rates of hunger or food insecurity, or conversely and more prevalently, high incidence of diet-related diseases including obesity and diabetes.

To begin to address these problems with tangible solutions, Sustainable Long Island is partnering with the Long Island Farm Bureau and local partners to establish a program that will bring fresh, nutritious foods to those communities that are currently underserved by food retailers and markets by creating weekly farmers markets that are run in part by Long Island youth – high school students under the supervision of a market manager. The markets will provide jobs to local youth, give community members greater choice of fresh produce and healthy food options, promote nutrition and education, contribute to a sense of place, and boost the local and regional economy.  Simultaneously these markets will allow farmers to devote more time to tending their farms rather than traveling back and forth, spending time at the markets, making participating in community farmers markets more appealing and financially sound for farmers.

“Access to health foods that are affordable is essential to ensuring our residents are able to choose a healthy lifestyle,” said State Senator Brian X. Foley.  “The lack of supermarkets in some areas leads to a lack of healthy, budget-friendly food options.  I commend Sustainable Long Island and the Long Island Farm Bureau for taking the initiative to create a program that addresses this concern.  But this program will do more than simply feed our residents.  It will employ local high school students, teaching them business skills that they will be able to carry with them through life.”

“Improving the quality of life for the residents in North Bellport is a top priority of my administration,” stated Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko.  “Our support of Sustainable Long Island's Farmer's Market will be another positive step toward change by providing healthier food alternatives for families, and jobs for our young people. This program will make a significant impact on a community that has been traditionally under served by large supermarkets and food retailers.”

“I regret not being able to attend today's event, but I do want to send the message that I will continue to work with the Greater Bellport community to fully realize their Vision of which this Farmers Market is a part,” said Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert. “It has been my great pleasure to work closely with the community every step of way, from the inception of the Visioning back in the Spring of 2006 to late last year when the community came to me with a plan for the Farmers Market  for which I was able to secure $10,000 for their start up costs.  I am always energized by the community's dedication in revitalizing this area and am thrilled about the well deserved attention their efforts are receiving today with Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Bishop, Senator Foley and Supervisor Lesko visiting this market.”

The Pilot Project is a youth-supported (and supportive) community farm stand and has two main objectives: 1) establish two weekly markets which make locally grown produce available to currently underserved communities and educates them about the benefits of healthy eating, and 2) establishing young adult entrepreneurial program in which high school students run market stalls under the supervision of a market manager, learning basics of business, customer service, nutrition and local agriculture.

The goals of the pilot project are to:

  • Expand the availability of fresh, healthy food options in a underserved Long Island communities
  • Provide jobs for local youth and increase economic opportunity both for regional farmers and local young adults
  • Improve health and nutrition of community members by providing an opportunity and incentive to purchase fresh, healthy foods
  • Educate the community about health, nutrition, agriculture and about the food available in local retail markets (delis, bodegas, supermarkets, etc.)
  • Bring diverse people together - Create a space in which community members can gather, socialize, get to know one another – in essence build community capital
  • Establish a creative semi-permanent or seasonal re-use of an underutilized property within an underserved community, bringing that space to life
  • Teach young adults important business skills, money handling, etc.

“The launch of these two markets brings hope to these communities, along with countless others on Long Island, that fresh, healthy, affordable food alternatives are available,” said Sarah Lansdale, Executive Director, Sustainable Long Island. “No more will they have to settle for high fat, sugar filled, greasy snacks and meals; they will now have what every community and every person deserves: an option.”

“The best farmland preservation program we know, is for farming to be profitable,” stated Bob Nolan. “We welcome marketing opportunities that allow the public to access our produce and products and at the same time allows our economic viability the market project with Sustainable LI  is a win win win for all Long Island.”

In addition, through these pilot project markets, the Health and Welfare Council and NuHealth will be able provide information on healthy eating, nutrition, supplemental nutrition program information (SNAP and WIC), and other vital resources to underserved com munities.

The Roosevelt and North Bellport community farmers’ markets will open on Sunday, July 11th

Joining them were the Greater Bellport Coalition, Suffolk County United Veterans, Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport Area, Roosevelt Community Revitalization Group, Health and Welfare Council, NuHealth and the student participants.

Participating Farms: W&K Farms - Manorville, Anderson Farms - Riverhead, Phil Schmitt & Sons, Bob Nolan and run through the end of October.