When Hill District residents visit the Hill House Association, they often gaze across the street to the future destination of the new Shop ’n Save, wondering how long they still have to wait for a neighborhood grocery store. Recognizing the importance of fresh produce for their neighbors, the Hill House has been hosting a farmer’s market for local residents every summer for more than a decade.
|FARMER’S MARKET—Hill District residents have been visiting the Hill House’s farm stand for more than 14 years. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
“We’ve been doing this for more than 14 years. What we do is just provide fresh food for the Hill. Most of the time, there’s nowhere for them to get fresh produce and the prices are good too,” said Marvin Prentice, chief operations officer. “We provide health services as well. It’s all about changing their diet. There’s all kinds of problem that come from processed food.”
Although the Shop ‘n Save was slated for completion in November, little appears to be done on the sight across from the Hill House. For now, the farmer’s market, held every Thursday from June to November in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, will have to do.
“The community eats fast food and it affects their health,” said Lee Hayes, coordinator of the Hill House’s Fathers program. “That stand is a blessing. They’re in the process of building the store, but right now that’s all we have.”
Beyond providing fresh produce at low costs, the farmer’s market also features healthy cooking demonstrations. On Aug. 25, visitors could also receive free blood pressure screenings.
“Most people don’t have health insurance so this is great,” Hayes said. “I work with young fathers so this teaches them to eat right and then they can teach their children. When you know better you do better.”
The Hill House’s senior services department organizes the farm stand. Access to fresh produce or grocery goods in general is a particular issue for elderly Hill District resident.
“It not only helps bring fresh produce to the community, but we educate these people too,” said Eunice Boyd, director of senior services. “Because we live in the city, other than the farmer’s market, low-income individuals don’t have access to this.”
On Aug. 25, the Hill House showcased Chef Regis Holden, head chef of Eat’n Park, who demonstrated how to use fresh produce to increase the nutritional value of meals. Eat’n Park has donated $40,000 to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s farm stands and also work with local farmers to provide produce at a reduced cost.
“Fresh local produce supports the community. It really helps our immune system,” Holden said. “We’re buying it local. I know we’re using 90 percent local produce.”
The Hill House’s farmer’s market is one of 14 stands sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in low-income neighborhoods.