Collaborative Innovations for Community Health, Meet the Grantee: Galveston’s Own Farmer’s Market
Through the generosity of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas’ Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grant, It’s Time Texas awarded the community-based, Galveston County organization Galveston’s Own Farmers Market sub-grant funding through the It’s Time Texas Collaborative Innovations for Community Health (CICH) program.
The Collaborative Innovations for Community Health program began in 2021 and provides funding for community-based organizations who mobilize and quickly distribute resources where they are most needed within targeted communities. This year, It’s Time Texas targeted two regions of Texas: San Antonio Metro and Galveston County. A total of five community-based organizations were chosen from these two areas in Texas. Funding supports the delivery of effective programs and services that improve critical health outcomes, address root causes of health disparities, remove barriers to access, and advance community conditions for health and wellness. It’s Time Texas partners with these grantees throughout the year to support their projects and initiatives, as well as their marketing and communication efforts in order to enhance their mission and visibility within their community.
Throughout 2022, It’s Time Texas is funding and partnering with Galveston’s Own Farmers Market whose mission is to build and sustain a local food community through a vibrant, producers-only marketplace, improved food access, and educational programming.
Starting off as a small, weekly farmers market in a gravel parking lot with seven to 10 vendors, the Galveston’s Own Farmers Market has expanded significantly, now offering various programs focused on food access, community gardens, and creating a meeting space for all Galveston County community members to come together and ideate and broaden horizons.
“The farmers market began in earnest back in 2012. My husband and I were new to the area and were selling at the market the produce from our farms. I was then asked to be a board member in 2013 and then the market manager,” recalled Casey McAuliffe, Executive Director for Galveston’s Own Farmers Market. “In 2014 we established ourselves as a SNAP-Ed retailer, which naturally just led into our programs. We now have operations in our school district and community gardens, we have cooking classes and fresh food deliveries—basically a wide range of food centric goodness.”
In her current position, she acts as a steward to ensure their programming stays true to the compass of their mission. Her job is to oversee the many programs and ensure they stay focused on serving the community.
“With the (COVID-19) pandemic we saw another huge boost of growth, teaching us new needs in our community, but we also saw a drop in some key community groups throughout Galveston. Specifically, a drop in visitors to our market from the Latinx community,” explained Ms. McAuliffe. “When I saw this funding, I knew we needed someone to help bring this food access resource to them and who could communicate more with them and encourage them to utilize our resources. That’s how we are using this funding.”
The Food Access Program allows the market to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—formerly known as food stamps). When using SNAP, it amplifies a customer’s buying power through Galveston’s Own Farmers Market Fresh Bucks & Bonus Bucks initiatives. When using it at the market, Galveston’s Own Farmers Market matches funds in Fresh Bucks & Bonus Bucks for the purchase of more fruits and vegetables (Fresh Bucks) and SNAP-eligible items (Bonus Bucks).
“We hired on more support to help focus on getting those who need SNAP, recieve SNAP benefits. Also, we chose someone to help us focus on bringing those in the Latinx community back to the market, showing them, we are here for them,” said Ms. McAuliffe. “I just don’t think there’s any reason to open a farmers market if you can’t make the food accessible to anyone and everyone in the community. We should be considered a food access point for everyone.”
The Young Gardeners Program brings the benefits of growing food, eating healthy, being outdoors, and working collectively to local children, one school at a time. Galveston’s Own Farmers Market is proud to have a garden in nine of the 11 Galveston ISD schools. Each garden has a part-time garden leader hired, managed, and trained by Galveston’s Own Farmers Market in partnership with Galveston ISD, who pays each part-time employee.
“The reality is, we are more than just a market,” explained Ms. McAuliffe. “We are a meeting place for community members. A safe space where everyone feels included and can come and exchange ideas and broaden horizons. That’s why we have our programming. We are a weekly platform to connect and promote health and food access for everyone in Galveston County.”