By Rachel Gobep
The Lake-to-River Food Cooperative opened a food market in January inside of Cultivate: a co-op café on Elm Street, one block north of Youngstown State University.
More than 30 farmers and growers from Northeast Ohio and Pennsylvania sell their goods at the market, including fresh produce, eggs and jams. Jim Converse, founding member of the Lake-to-River Food Cooperative, said the localized aspect of the market is key.
“Knowing who your farmer is and how they grow their food has become increasingly important for people that are health-conscious,” Converse said.
Melissa Miller, president of the Lake-to-River Food Cooperative, said one of the main goals of the market is to serve as a resource for students on campus.
“There is a lot more interest in education about healthy eating and locally grown food,” Miller said.
The market was placed on Elm Street to be within walking distance of YSU, Converse said. He said since there is not a grocery store located on campus, the market can fulfill grocery needs of students.
Precious Brown, YSU student and employee at Cultivate said this makes the market a perfect opportunity for the area.
“We are in the middle of nowhere and we have healthy food that is affordable,” Brown said. “People from around here grow it, so it’s like your neighbor is making your food.”
The café incorporates locally grown produce from the market into items on their menu. Brown said she has felt ten times healthier since she started working there.
“Wherever you work, you usually eat the food there the most,” Brown said. “I see a change in my appetite, what I will eat and what I won’t eat.”
More than one-third of the customers at Cultivate are YSU students, according to Converse. Plans to permit Pete’s Points are underway, estimated to be usable by the fall semester.
The Lake-to-River Cooperative was started by farmers and food makers to protect local food markets from disappearing, something Miller said can be avoided with community support.
“[People] think that you can only buy farm products in the summertime, but meat, milk and some of these locally produced items [such as granola and eggs] are available year round,” Miller said. “We all need to work to engage with our local food makers.”
The Northside Farmer’s Market, also part of the co-op, is located across the street from Lake-to-River Market where community members can meet farmers who are growing their food.
Melissa Biscella, a local who recently took charge of her father’s farm, sold produce at the Northside Farmer’s Market on Saturday. She said having locally grown food available in the area benefits Youngstown’s citizens.
“A little market like this brings fresh produce and fresh plants to a community that maybe can’t get to the store to get that fresh product,” Biscella said.