By: Christopher Bradshaw, Executive Director at Dreaming Out Loud …..
Dreaming Out Loud is a small organization that punches above its weight. In 2014, with a small footprint we were able to have a big impact on communities and the food system through Aya Community Markets, our growing network of farmers markets and mobile farm-stands. In 2014, we reached more than 10,000 people and distributed more than 70,000 pounds of fresh, local produce from Crazy Farm, our anchor farm partner. We were able to help make this healthy food more affordable through more than $13,000 in direct-to-consumer farmers market nutrition incentive funds.
So how does a small organization make such a big impact? First, we have to thank the communities that we have the privilege of working with and within. With encouragement and making Aya their weekly destination for groceries, it was a success. Secondly, we have benefited from great partnerships with the Green Scheme, DC Greens, Unity Health Care Clinic, and the University of the District of Columbia’s Center for Nutrition, Diet, and Health. Together, our partners helped to run the Produce Plus Program, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx), and provide healthy cooking demonstrations at Aya.
Undoubtedly, the Produce Plus Program (PPP) was the key to our collective success in 2014. The PPP helps District residents access fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Through PPP, recipients of many federal assistance programs can receive $10 per household per market per week to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets. It was incredible to see the way that people responded to the program: telling friends, family, and neighbors about PPP and using it as tool to not only stretch budgets, but build new bonds. As one customer on Minnesota Avenue remarked:
“This program is such a blessing! A little bit extra really helps, last week I cooked up the greens I bought and everyone loved them. I’m going to make those again!”
PPP also helped Crazy Farm, who like many farmers in Westmoreland County, VA — a USDA designated StrikeForce community affected by rural poverty — rely on District farmers markets to provide their income and have been incredible partners in building access to fresh produce for low-income customers. With such positive momentum, we are excited about the 2015 season for Aya Community Markets at Unity Health Care on Minnesota Avenue and beyond. Stay tuned!