Farmers’ market finds fans at Manayunk’s Pretzel Park

 Each Saturday, Pretzel Park transforms into a farmers' market. (Kayla Cook and Sean Smith for Philadelphia Neighborhoods)

Each Saturday, Pretzel Park transforms into a farmers' market. (Kayla Cook and Sean Smith for Philadelphia Neighborhoods)

Saturdays have recently become shopping days for visitors of Pretzel Park in Manayunk.

This past Saturday marked the fourth time the center of the park has been transformed into a marketplace for fresh locally produced foods.

The farmers’ market is put on each week by the Manayunk-Roxborough Food Co-op. Alexandra DiFilippo serves as the market’s manager and said that the idea behind the market was to make a consistent supply of fresh food available to the community, as well as to raise awareness of the co-op.

The market was first held on May 25 and featured just three food vendors. This past week, the market featured six food vendors as well as two local artists to complement the Manayunk Arts Festival that took place over the weekend. 

DiFilippo has big aspirations for the market going forward.

“I have this secret desire [for it] to be the best in the city,” she said. “Just really the best quality and freshest food available.”

She added that the market is looking to offer an even wider variety of foods in the near future. She mentioned the possibilities of bringing in a seafood vendor as well as having products like raw milk and cheese available.

Carrie Comeau of Manayunk visited the market Saturday and was thrilled to see fresh food available.

“It’s really nice to be able to buy local food.”

Comeau said she’s also excited to hear about the food co-op and will think about getting involved with the initiative. 

Early co-op plans 

Discussions about the Manayunk-Roxborough Food Co-op were first held in April of last year. DiFilippo is a member of the Food Co-op and said the group just recently selected an interim board, became incorporated and is now accepting membership.

DiFilippo said that while the farmers’ market is currently serving as the vehicle to bring fresh food into the community, the goal is to ultimately secure a permanent building location for the co-op.

The group is currently working with a person from Philadelphia University on finding the best location for that building, but she said that, right now, it looks as if the co-op location will be a retrofit and not a brand new building project.

But before any real action can be taken on a building, the group must first garner enough support in the community to warrant such a move, which the farmers’ market is helping to do.

Money also needs to be raised in order to move forward with the plans for a building and a number of fundraisers have already been held.

The next fundraiser is a co-op movie night scheduled for Wednesday, June 26, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Kendrick Recreation Center. The group is suggesting an $8 donation for the movie night where the film “American Meat – A Leave it Better Story,” which looks at the current state of meat production in America, will be screened.

The thinking behind the co-op initiative 

“For me, the reason it’s worthwhile is because the systems that exist in the food industry and with the grocery stores, I really feel it’s a broken system,” DiFilippo said. “The food co-op is a way for all of us who disagree with what’s happening to get together and say ‘this is what we want. We want fresh food that is grown locally. We want health to be a priority. We just want the freshest and the best.'”

A report released by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in May 2011, called Philadelphians’ fresh fruits and vegetables intake “poor,” as only 10.5 percent of adults were eating the five daily servings that are recommended by the USDA. The report also called the number of children in the city meeting suggested USDA servings as “equally poor” with only 11.6 percent reaching the five daily servings recommended.

DiFilippo said she could see why this problem exists.

“Within walking distance you can get a cheesesteak and penny candy, but you can’t get fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Asked if she believed that food co-ops can serve as a solution to these troubling numbers, DiFilippo said that she “hopes so”, adding that “as long as there is a desire in the community, a food co-op is a fabulous idea.”

For more information about the Manayunk-Roxborough Food Co-op, or to find out more about the farmer’s market, you can like their facebook page or contact them via email at manayunkroxboroughfoodco.op@gmail.com.

Sean Smith and Kayla Cook are Temple University students.  This piece was produced in collaboration with WHYY/NewsWorks. 

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