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All are welcome to get free produce at pop-up farmers markets in Pittsburgh this winter

University of Pittsburgh junior Sydney Stine (left) distributes produce at a no-cost pop-up market at Amplify Church in the Hill District Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
An-Li Herring
90.5 WESA
University of Pittsburgh junior Sydney Stine (left) distributes produce at a no-cost pop-up market at Amplify Church in Uptown Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.

Fresh produce can be harder to come by in the winter, but community groups in and around Pittsburgh have banded together to hold free farmers markets through March.

The pop-up markets, which began in December, take place every other week in East Liberty, Uptown, Homewood, Millvale, and the North Side. It also includes a home-delivery service.

Anyone is permitted to pick up produce at the markets on a walk-in basis.

“And they don't question,” said Dell Hancock while attending the Uptown market at Amplify Church in December. “They just welcome you. I like the way they welcome you, and they don't judge you for it.”

Hancock, who works as a custodian, said the program “really helps” her family, given that she and her husband earn just above the limit to qualify for federal food assistance.

The American Heart Association secured funding for the initiative and convened about 10 community groups to set up distribution sites.

“It's all about dignity. These aren't just high-sodium canned goods. This is high-quality produce, fresh produce,” said Karen Colbert, the association’s regional director of communications in western Pennsylvania.

“When you provide communities with fresh, healthy produce, that helps with the prevention of high blood pressure, diabetes, [and] heart disease,” she added.

The American Heart Association reported in December that COVID-19 has coincided with an overall jump in blood pressure among middle-aged adults in the U.S. The condition is a leading cause of heart disease, researchers said. And they suggested that increases in blood pressure could be tied to changes related to the pandemic such as new eating habits, increased alcohol consumption, and less physical activity.

COVID-19 also increased the number of “food-insecure” households in the Pittsburgh region by more than 40%, according to a 2020 study by the national organization Feeding America. Pandemic-related school closures and economic hardship make it harder for families to gain consistent access to nutritious food, anti-hunger advocates say.

The community organizations that help to run the pop-up markets include Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Cooperative, Gwen’s Girls, Millvale Community Development Corporation, Project Destiny, Project Oasis, Roots of Faith, Sankofa Village Community Farm, and St. James AME Church, according to the American Heart Association. Thornburg-based distributor Monteverde’s Produce supplies the food at a subsidized rate.

The markets take place at the following times and locations through March:

  • East Liberty – Second and fourth Thursday of the month, 12 to 3 p.m. at St. James AME Church
  • Uptown – First and third Tuesday of the month, 12 to 3 p.m. at Amplify Church
  • Homewood – Second and fourth Thursday of the month, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Project Oasis, and 1 to 4 p.m. at House of Manna
  • Millvale – Second and fourth Tuesday of the month,  3 to 5 p.m. at Millvale Community Development Center
  • North Side – First and third Tuesday of the month, 11 a.m. at Project Destiny