Methodist Hospitals in Gary welcomed residents from around the region to its farmers market of Friday. Fresh, locally grown produce was bagged and sold almost as fast as it was being shelved.
The farmers markets are being hosted as part of an overall effort by Methodist Hospitals to promote healthy living, local farmers, restaurants, and bakeries. There were fresh fruits, vegetables, and other items one would expect to find at a farmers market. There were also some surprising but equally delectable items such as: freshly baked pies and a live cooking demonstration of breakfast empanadas dipped in pineapple salsa.
"We do this for our community to make everybody more health conscious. This is our third week, we were going to stop but everybody seemed to like it so we've extended it to September. This is our way of reaching out to the community, so far it's been awesome," Methodist Hospitals Chef Greg Kretschmar said.
Much of the food at the farmers market was brought in by Piazza Produce and Specialty Foods. Piazza Produce and Specialty Foods is a partner of Methodist Hospitals and works with the farmers market as part of their community outreach program.
"We work with this program because we want to help people eat fresh and live a healthy lifestyle. We are really big on local farmers. We like to keep things local and because we know it helps the local economy. It's terrific. Everything we bring in is usually gone by the end of the day," Piazza Produce and Specialty Foods Sales Representative Sue Rodriguez, said.
In some Northwest Indiana communities farmers markets are very common in the summer. For the city of Gary, access to fresh food is very limited and grocery stores are few and far between. The farmers market at Methodist Hospitals is viewed by some as a means of bridging the supply and demand gap in the city.
"Gary is an area that's considered a grocery desert. There aren't a lot of grocery stores left in the community and that makes it harder for people to find healthy food options. We wanted to reach out and bring fresh foods back into the community at a discounted rate. This way people don't have to travel very far to get fresh fruits and vegetables they need. This is our first year, but the demand is there, so we've extended to September already. Next year, we're looking to do more marketing and promotion. We would like to see it grow so we can bring in more people and more vendors," Event Coordinator, Frank Matchem, said.
Gary residents came out and enjoyed the weather and fresh food on sale, but convenience is also part of the appeal Methodist Hospitals farmers market . For some, having fresh foods in their own back yard was a refreshing change.
"I think it's great that I don't have to travel very far to get all these goods. I'm really health conscious, so not having the extra hustle of traveling far to grocery shop is a big plus for me. Plus, they have good pies for those days when I'm allowed to cheat on my diet," Gary resident Terri McCullough said.