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United Way of 1000 Lakes is teaming up with the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market to help improve food access, strengthen the local food economy, and promote community engagement.

The partnership grew out of the Markets’ plan to relocate to Golf Course Road, near Highway 169. Excavating is already underway on the new site with projects continuing on the Day of Action including parking lot enhancements, planting raised gardens, public art, assembling picnic tables and benches, and a plant sale to help raise matching funds for the market’s food assistance program for low-income families.

Day of Action is a massive annual volunteer initiative that takes place worldwide on June 21st to improve lives and conditions in our communities. Last year, a collective 582 hours of service were garnered in the Itasca Area alone during the day equating to more than $14,000 in contributions. More than a hundred volunteers of all ages participated in various hands-on projects including prepping community garden space, packing bulk food, and installing a cement pad for a new accessible swing. 

“United Way hopes to bring awareness and make fresh, nutritious foods more readily available to Itasca residents while helping farmers grow sustainable operations,” said United Way executive director Kim Brink Smith. “We are excited to be a part of this project and hope the market will be a community gathering space that contributes to the vitality of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

On any given day of market, up to two dozen suppliers pop up booths to cater to shoppers in search of Brandywine tomatoes, cilantro, raw honey, Hardneck garlic or local meats. Not to mention more common fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and other fresh food staples.

The Market, which is in its 32nd season, is a full service enterprise, accepting credit, debit and EBT cards. That means families can use SNAP food assistance at the Market, allowing residents of all income levels to access fresh local food.

SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federally funded program which delivers monthly nutrition benefits to over 40 million Americans nationwide, and nearly 4,671 in Itasca County, of thes 1,824 are children. 

Each market day, SNAP recipients may receive a 2-for-1 match to their SNAP benefits, to be spent at the market for in-season groceries like fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, baked goods, jams and jellies and honey. The purchase of vegetable plants or potted herbs is also allowed.

"It's been incredible to see the support low-income families have given to our Market," says Christy Harling, who has been selling with her daughter at the market for several years. "We think this new location will make it even more convenient for low-income families to access fresh local food, and we're thrilled to have the United Way and their volunteers make this a welcoming place for everyone."

Day of Action takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Farmer Market site, 11 Golf Course Road. The day will conclude at Klockow Brewing Company with live music, family-friendly speed volunteering activities, as well as food trucks. 

For more information about volunteering or sponsoring the Day of Action, contact United Way at 218-999-7570 or unitedwayof1000lakes.org/Contact-Us. For a complete list of activities and updates, visit unitedwayof1000lakes.org/Day-of-Action.

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