Partner Spotlight: Our Place Fresh Market

The Wednesday night Kendall Yards Night Market is known for its fresh produce, food trucks, and live music.  But just a few blocks west, Our Place holds its own market, distributing free produce to people facing hunger. 

Second Harvest provides fresh produce, protein, grains, dairy, and other food items to 250 agencies throughout the Inland Northwest, including Our Place Community Ministries.  This agency primarily serves the West Central neighborhood in Spokane.  Along with a food bank, Our Place offers a clothing bank, laundry center and utility assistance.  It also distributes personal hygiene products and bus passes free of charge.  But on Wednesday nights during the summer, staff and volunteers facilitate the Fresh Market, a free farmers’ market style produce distribution open to anyone—not just residents of West Central.

Our Place began its Fresh Market last year so that people who can’t afford food at the Kendall Yards market don’t leave the night empty-handed.  Rather than avoiding the event altogether, they can now get food at Our Place and then enjoy the live music and friendly atmosphere just a few streets away.  Setira, a loyal volunteer at the Fresh Market, said she sees a diverse group at these events—people experiencing homelessness, students, seniors, etc.—but they all have one thing in common: there’s just not enough in the budget for fresh produce.

The Fresh Market experienced lots of growth in its second season thanks to Facebook event pages and word of mouth.  Setira often sees the line for the market reach the end of the block.  The busiest distribution this year provided 2,000 pounds of food to over 300 people.  Their smallest distribution served 165.  Our Place does not put a limit on how much produce an individual can take.

Next year, Our Place hopes to continue to grow the Fresh Market’s capacity.  Kat Hartsell, Our Place’s development director, said she would like to extend the season from June to October to mirror the season of Kendall Yards’ market.  She also hopes for additional funding to be able to provide more food each week, as they often run out.  Eventually, Our Place staff would like to be able to provide the Fresh Market all year round, though this would require more staffing and volunteers. 

Jamie attended the last Fresh Market of the season with two of her children—Oryen, 16, and Serenity, 10.  They chatted with Setira as they placed their produce into grocery bags.  Jamie started attending the Fresh Market this year after hearing about it from others in the area.  “They’re just really delightful people.  The ladies here always make me smile and laugh,” Jamie said.  She also uses Our Place to get supplies such as toilet paper and toothbrushes for her family of five.

“Having three men in the house, they can eat.  I always come try to use other services throughout the month.  I’m really grateful that places like (Second Harvest) donate food for people that need it because there’s a lot of people out there who can’t buy food.  It saves a lot of money.”

At this market, Our Place distributed apples, leeks, onions, cauliflower, celery, tomatillos, swiss chard, pears, oats, rice, and several other items.  Jamie and her family were most excited about the variety of fresh fruit available at the market.  Her kids love the fruit—even more than candy, claimed Serenity, as Setira helped her eagerly fill another grocery bag with plums provided to Our Place by Second Harvest.  “I used to have a big problem with eating candy.  Now I try to eat fruit instead,” added her brother Oryen.

Jamie often makes pies and muffins with the fruit, and she always saves the seeds whenever she can.  “I put them off to the side.  You never know, maybe someday I’ll want my own plum tree.”