Midwest Melting Pot
MILWAUKEE, WI—Forget garden variety tomatoes or state fair cheese curds. At the Fondy Farmers Market here on the city’s north side, you can buy sweet potato leaves, squash vines and 13 different varieties of eggplant.
The veritable produce cornucopia reflects the farmers, who are largely Hmong, and the diverse community, which is predominantly African American. Here at the market, boasting “welcome” signs in many languages, people from around the world and across income levels are drawn together for one reason: to feed their families well.
Fondy was one of the first markets in the nation to accept SNAP benefits, and in 2015 they were a partner on Wholesome Wave’s FINI grant, which furnished $10,000 to Fondy’s nutrition incentive program, Market Match. The program was so popular, customers spent the whole $10,000 on fruits and vegetables in a matter of weeks. Fondy and Wholesome Wave then raised an additional $30,000 for Market Match, which customers also redeemed faster than you can say “affordable access.”
Jennifer Casey, executive director of Fondy Food Center, which manages the market, says joining forces with Wholesome Wave took their nutrition incentive work to the next level.
“The resources we get from Wholesome Wave are phenomenal. Not just the access to national grants, but the training and the other resources, like [the data -tracking app] FM Tracks,” Casey raves. “Having access to their staff allows us to pose questions, and being connected to the National Nutrition Incentive Network is a great way to learn and share.”
So much so that in 2015 Fondy Food Center also collaborated with Wholesome Wave on a resource titled “Fostering a Culture of Inclusivity at Your Market,” which has since been shared with other network member markets across the country.
“Fondy Market is one of the most culturally diverse places, in one of the most segregated cities,” says Casey. “Milwaukee has struggled with segregation and the inequities that come with that, but at Fondy you find neighbors working together, sharing resources and recipes.”