A Grant Park resident shares the bounty

Farmers markets are always packed with do-gooders and community boosters, for at least one obvious reason. Anyone who has ever bitten into a perfect summer tomato or a sweet spring strawberry knows that the second words spoken—the ones that immediately follow “Wow!”—are always, “Try this!” A passion for good food goes hand-in-hand with a desire to share.

So perhaps it’s no wonder that some folks involved with the new Grant Park Farmers Market, and one vendor in particular, have already found a neighborhood-centric way to share the bounty.

On Sunday afternoons, after the market is closed, they’re sharing unsold food with the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative.

Longtime Grant Park resident Suzanne Welander, a passionate participant in the local food movement and a born nurturer of chickens, flowers, friends and strangers, often saw the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative truck passing her house and what her neighbors were up to.

They were up to good, it turns out. Through the Georgia Avenue Community Ministry, Welander’s neighbors were joining forces to help one another. Five groups of 50 families pay a small handling fee and meet every other week to unload a 1-ton truck of donated food from the Atlanta Community Food Bank and divvy it up for each member. They stay for a meeting and an educational talk on subjects ranging from nutrition to legal advice.

Welander, who operates the roving Farm Mobile for Riverview Farms, had an idea: What if her Sunday leftovers went to the co-op instead of the compost pile?

“They’re doing me a big favor,” she says. All Welander has to do is drive home: “We box it up, and they come pick it up.” She estimates that she donates 200 to 300 pounds of food each Sunday: tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, okra and other perishable items that would be no good when her route resumes the following week. Other market vendors contribute, too.

The produce gets added to the co-op’s regular mix of canned and packaged goods, frozen meats and cereals, says the Rev. Chad Hale, director of the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative and co-founder of the Georgia Avenue Community Ministry. “We’ve been very pleased to get those organic vegetables to add to the boxes of our members,” he says. “We want them to have good food.”

From the beginning, he says, the market’s organizers have stressed inclusiveness. “These farmers markets are a growing phenomenon, and that’s something we want to be able to take advantage of,” he says. “We’ve been able to do that moderately with this Grant Park market. That’s been a real blessing.”

Welander says that for a while now, she’s wanted to find a way to share good food with her neighbors. “We couldn’t make it happen in the past, but now that we have the farmers market in the neighborhood, all of a sudden it all fell into place.”

Images: Suzanne Welander, courtesy the Urban Gatherer Blog (theurbangatherer.com); the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative truck, courtesy Georgia Avenue Community Ministry.