Shared from the 4/1/2017 Austin American Statesman eEdition


Health center offers farm stand as way to bring focus to wellness


Tena Southwell examines the produce available Friday at a new farm stand outside the Central Health Southeast Health and Wellness Center in Montopolis. PHOTOS BY DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Other items available at the newly launched Montopolis farm stand include honey and organic peanut butter.


The farm stand at the Central Health Southeast Health and Wellness Center, 2901 Montopolis Drive, is open every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Samples were available Friday at the new Montopolis farm stand. The stand is operated by Farmshare Austin. PHOTOS BY DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


These bunches of radishes were among the offerings Friday. All signage at the farm stand is in English and Spanish, and all the stand’s workers speak both languages.

After being diagnosed with endometriosis a few years ago, Alicia Martinez of Austin eliminated dairy and gluten from her diet. She’s more mindful of the food she consumes, but that’s been challenging to do on a tight budget.

Martinez, 32, clips coupons and scours the city for deals on fruits and vegetables in order to keep her chronic illness at bay. On Friday afternoon, though, Martinez loaded up her canvas shopping bag with spinach, beets and radishes at a newly launched farm stand in the Montopolis neighborhood.

The farm stand at the Central Health Southeast Health and Wellness Center, 2901 Montopolis Drive, is part of the city of Austin’s Fresh for Less initiative, which provides local and fresh produce at reduced prices. It’s operated by Farmshare Austin and will be at the health center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday.

In an area where fast-food restaurants abound and limited healthy food options exist, the Montopolis neighborhood’s farm stand aims to encourage healthy eating and living.

“It’s not your typical farmers market,” said Elizabeth Marrero, program director at the Central Health Southeast Health and Wellness Center. “We have people who can educate shoppers.”

Everyone who works at the farm stand speaks both English and Spanish and all the signage is in both languages. Dietitians are available to speak with shoppers, and adult students from the health center’s cooking classes offer samples of such dishes as quinoa and kale salad that are healthy and easy to prepare.

Buda resident Lisa Muñoz credits what she’s learned from the health center’s free cooking classes with helping with her retinitis pigmentosa, a disorder that affects vision. Muñoz gave farm stand shoppers ideas about what they could cook using the produce they purchased.

CommUnityCare, which operates the health clinic inside the Southeast Health and Wellness Center, estimates that 65 percent of patients in the area are overweight.

“For me, if I don’t watch what I eat, I literally pay for it,” Martinez said.

She’s visited farmers markets around the city, but can’t afford to shop there regularly.

Unlike some traditional farmers markets, the Montopolis farm stand accepts the Lone Star Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and offers the Sustainable Food Center’s Double Dollars, which is a project that matches up to $30 in SNAP benefits that can be redeemed for fruits and vegetables.

“The mobile market approach meets families where they live, work or seek health care, resulting in one less stop in their day,” said Carolina Mueller, food access manager for Farm-share Austin.

It’s the ›irst Farmshare Austin farm stand to operate at a community health center in the city, but other locations include the Dove Springs Recreation Center, and Cunningham and Odom elementary schools.

After the Montopolis farm stand’s first hour in operation Friday, produce was quickly running out. Martinez managed to snag a bag full of fruits and vegetables for less than $20.

“I’m de›initely coming back,” she said.

Contact Nancy Flores at 512-912-2559.

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