• The Star Staff

Food market wants to provide fresh produce in urban areas during pandemic

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Non-profit organization World Central Kitchen (WCK) has created the Santurce Food Market (SFM), an initiative that will start on Aug. 22 at the Miramar Food Truck Park, providing an outlet for local farmers, fishers, artisans and other agricultural entrepreneurs from the Plow to Plate program to sell their products in urban areas amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Plow to Plate Manager Crystal Díaz said the market, which will be open every fourth Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m, has the purpose of showcasing products from members of the program to consumers and developing a safe networking space to help their small and midsize agricultural enterprises grow and become sustainable.

Likewise, Díaz said that SFM, which was supposed to begin in April, is an extension of Plow to Plate’s long-term mission: to raise awareness of the need to increase access to fresh and nutritious produce in urban areas and promote food security in Puerto Rico.

“As Plow to Plate came to fruition after World Central Kitchen, which provided food after Hurricane Maria, and as things calmed down, we asked ourselves how we can support Puerto Rico in the long term,” Díaz said. “After an agricultural assessment, one of the results was that food importation issues were not providing food safety to the island. From this result, Plow to Plate was born, which awards subsidies of $5,000 to $20,000 to small and midsize producers.”

Díaz added that the program “also provides capacity building workshops and voluntary programs [to members] to get their enterprises to a higher level.”

As Plow to Plate has established and sustained itself for two and a half years due to grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Díaz and her Plow to Plate colleagues saw an opportunity to run a new farmer’s market to keep promoting locally sourced products from the program’s “subsidiaries.” They held conversations with a longtime collaborator, Miramar Food Truck Plaza, to hold their own bazaar.

“Miramar Food Truck Plaza has been a huge partner for our organization since Hurricane Maria, so we thought it was the right time to collaborate and, with Miramar having no place to sell fresh produce, it was the moment to coordinate between our producers and the space to present their products,” Díaz said.

Díaz added that in September, Plow to Place is making a call for farmers with less than 30 acres of produce, fishers, added-value service providers, non-profit organizations and associations involved in agricultural business and others who need a push to bring their projects to another level, to submit their projects in order to have them subsidized.

“It’s very competitive, as on our last call in March, we got more than 250 applications; usually, with our available funds, we can subsidize 8 percent of the projects,” Díaz said. “For this year, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bahamas can apply to the program once we open the application.”

“More than the money that the winning projects might receive, you become a part of the Plow to Plate family, which brings plenty of benefits,” she said.

Díaz added that anyone seeking more information can visit wck.org/plow-to-plate or follow WCK on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/wckplowtoplate.