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HealthPicture of Health

Sampling local farmers' markets

University of Maryland Medical CenterWomen, Infants and ChildrenSupplemental Nutrition Assistance ProgramWaterway and Maritime Transportation Industry

Nutritionists from the University of Maryland Medical Center regularly contribute a guest post. The latest post is from Cara Shipley, dietetic intern.

In June all of the farmers' markets, like the Orioles, are in full swing. The definition of "local" food varies widely, but it is most commonly referred to as any food that travels less than 100 miles from the farm to your table. Benefits of eating local include fresher, more nutrient-dense produce and a smaller carbon footprint because of decreased transportation time. Here are some tips on where to find the local foods in Baltimore. This list is in no way comprehensive, but it is a good way to begin exploring.

Each farmers' market throughout the city brings its own flavor. We begin our culinary journey in North Baltimore at the 32nd Street Farmers Market in Waverly. It is located at the parking lot on East 32nd and Barclay streets and is open year-round every Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon. It brings a wealth of diversity and caters to people in all walks of life. Here you will find everything from produce to ethnic prepared foods and Zeke's coffee. The Waverly market is one of seven that allows customers shopping with the food stamp benefit debit cards to double their food dollars up to $10 using "Baltimore Bucks." This market is one that really seems to be focused on serving the needs of the community. According to its website, in 2012 the market accepted 2,321 debit transactions for SNAP cards totaling $76,870, 8490 Baltimore Bucks Incentive Dollars and increased the WIC redemption rate by giving $1,500 incentive dollars to those clients.

As we move to South Baltimore, we find a very small but industrious market: The Baltimore Museum of Industry's farmers' market runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This market is a convenient location for Federal Hill residents to purchase produce, meat, dairy products like fresh ice cream, plants, flowers and a selection of artisan goods. This small, family-focused market offers fun events such as live music, demonstrations, kids' activities and giveaways.

On the east side of town is the Fells Point Farmers Market, held every Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Broadway Square. Although the first farmers' market in Fells Point dates back to the 1700s, the current market is fairly new, beginning in 2011. It has quickly become a favorite due to the accessibility by foot, bike, car (free parking until 10 a.m.), Charm City circulator and water taxi. You will find rich history with a twist: trendy vendors include Atwater's Bakery, Baltimore Waffle Company and Jukai Juices.

The University Farmers Market, located at plaza Park on Paca Street just steps outside of the University of Maryland Medical Center, runs Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Shop with medical professionals and students. The market is small, but features fun treats like Capital Kettle Corn and Gary's Turkey burgers. Not to mention all the food trucks that show up too.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar, Maryland's largest producers-only market, which is open Sundays 7 a.m. to noon. Wake up feeling classy with Cafe Latte'da and then make your way over to the farmer vendors get some staples. In addition to usual produce you will find at a farmers' market, this one is hard to beat with its huge selection of specialty meats like lamb, bison, goat and rabbit. And for those feeling less adventurous, there is always plenty of pit beef to go around. There is a wide array of crafty vendors with everything from stained glass to handbags. Just be sure to give yourself time to get through everything this market has to offer. Don't forget to pick up some whole grain bread before heading home. Free parking is on Guilford Avenue and Pleasant Street, adjacent to the bazaar lot.

Whichever market you shop at, each dollar you spend sends a message that in turn affects the demand, availability and ultimately the price of healthy food. If people take the time to get to know the farmers who grow our food and appreciate where it comes from, the world will be a happier, healthier place — starting in Baltimore.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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