According to the USDA, more than 34 million people (about twice the population of New York) in the United States are food insecure — including 1 in 3 college students. That means many people in our communities have limited access or funding to secure food.
Thanks to a partnership between CoAct, a nonprofit social innovation firm in Fort Worth, and Texas Wesleyan University, Southeast Fort Worth and our campus community are gaining access to more fresh, locally-grown food as part of the Funkytown Mindful Market.
“The premise of it is really just to increase food access to Southeast Fort Worth — we do live in a food desert,” said Jesse Herrera, founder and director of CoAct. “There’s not an abundance of healthy food options in this area. We're cognizant of that with the market. The vendors that we try to bring on board speak to wellness and longevity, and the products they bring in help one in that journey.”
The Funkytown Mindful Market not only provides healthy food, it also offers different activities to promote health and wellness, including cooking classes taught by home chefs, yoga and play areas for children. The market aims to explore and cultivate mindful practices for the diverse communities that represent Southeast Fort Worth.
“We have a very diverse community in this area, and the activities here are not always cultural. That becomes important when we try to promote wellness and longevity,” Herrera said.
The market started as part of a community wellness program created by Roderick Miles Jr., executive administrator of programs and outreach with Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks’ office. To help support local farmers, CoAct created the Grow Southeast program to help Southeast Fort Worth community members get support in growing fresh food in an urban farm to sell in their neighborhoods.
However, the closest farmers market to Southeast Fort Worth is on the complete opposite side of the city, making it difficult for the farmers to serve their neighborhoods. That’s when the idea to launch a farmers' market in Southeast Fort Worth was born.
“A lot of the farmers that we are developing have a desire to serve the communities they reside in,” said Herrera. “However, there are no farmers markets in this community. Funkytown Mindful Market was a way to directly bring the farmers market here to Southeast Fort Worth in a trusted location to be able to showcase these wonderful products that our farmers and vendors are bringing and really keep it true to the community.”
Texas Wesleyan became the ideal location since the campus is in the middle of many Southeast Fort Worth neighborhoods and is easily accessible to the community. The campus also has large grassy areas to support the market — and will allow the market to keep expanding as it grows. And by having the market at TXWES, the University and CoAct can work together to reduce food insecurity for college students.
“We definitely want to get students engaged. I think a lot of the products are products that the students really appreciate,” Herrera said. “We want to be a resource [for TXWES students.] We know that food insecurity exists. And I think it speaks to where Texas Wesleyan is trying to go — not to just be in the community, but part of it.”
“We’re excited to be partnering with CoAct to host the Funkytown Mindful Market on our Texas Wesleyan campus,” said Texas Wesleyan University President Frederick G. Slabach. “It provides both our students and Southeast Fort Worth neighbors the opportunity to receive fresh, nutritious food and engage in wellness activities, which is vital for the strength and well-being of our overall community.”
Herrera said that he is excited for the market to continue to grow. He’s traveled to different parts of the country to study how other cities offer their farmers markets and hopes that his research will help the Funkytown Farmers Market become an even bigger success.
“The thing that excites me about this has been able to bring these locally, grown unique products to the market, to the community and being able to showcase the community itself,” he said. “It's very easy for us to skip over the champions that are within our walls.”
You can check out the next Funkytown Farmers Market by viewing the schedule online. You can also become a vendor or volunteer with the market by visiting CoAct’s website.
Picture and video courtesy of CoAct.