As National Farmers Market Week is celebrated across the U.S. this year from August 4–10, the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market (NBCFM), one of two seasonal markets operated by Rutgers University–New Brunswick, celebrates its 10th season serving city residents. Based at 178 Jones Avenue, NBCFM was launched in 2009 with the support of a grant to Rutgers by Johnson & Johnson, the health care products manufacturer whose world headquarters are located in New Brunswick.
The Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market, the other community farmers market at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, was established in 2008 at the university’s botanical gardens located off Ryders Lane in New Brunswick.
For the past decade, NBCFM – a partnership among Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE), Johnson & Johnson and the city of New Brunswick – has been serving neighborhoods that have limited access to a variety of nutritious fresh foods and providing important food education.
“It’s a unique collaboration that brings together three pillars of New Brunswick in a community-based program to improve the health and well-being of local residents, so in that way it’s more than just a market,” says Lauren Errickson, RCE senior program coordinator and coordinator of the NBCFM.
Attracting seniors to the market is a key component of the outreach activities of NBCFM, adds Errickson.
“As nutrition is inherently linked to health outcomes, especially with increasing age, we offer programs designed to increase healthy food access by senior citizens.” This includes collaboration with AARP NJ to offer pop-up farmers markets at senior residences in the area, reducing transportation barriers for seniors by bringing the market to them.
Also, through an ongoing collaboration with Meals on Wheels in Greater New Brunswick, the market sends bags of assorted produce to seniors and disabled persons receiving meals on wheels support to approximately 70 seniors on five occasions during the growing season. The market also doubles the value of Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers, allowing more seniors to better afford fresh fruits and vegetables.
NBCFM offers free nutrition education programming for adults and children via a unique, market-specific curriculum developed by Nurgul Fitzgerald, associate professor of nutritional sciences and extension specialist. The goal is to improve childhood health outcomes and develop healthy habits that last a lifetime. New this year is a collaboration with New Jersey State Creative Arts 4-H Agent Ellen Williams and the Piscataway Elks Club that allows the market to offer more nutrition and health creative arts activities for youths.
NBCFM customers, including Rutgers students, who participate in nutrition and health activities are able to earn “Market Bucks,” to spend at the market.
“Recognizing the need for solutions to food insecurity on campus, we are working together with the Rutgers University Student Food Pantry to offer “Market Bucks” vouchers to Rutgers students experiencing food insecurity so they can access fresh fruits and vegetables,” explains Errickson. They also have the opportunity to volunteer or intern with the NBCFM in fields of study that include nutrition, public health, communications and marketing, agriculture, landscape design, business and more.
NBCFM is open three days a week, from June through October. It accepts and doubles the value of WIC (Women, Infant, & Children) Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers, helping families to afford healthy choices.