The Birmingham City Council last week approved an additional $50,000 for a farmer’s market at the bus station on Morris Avenue.
The farmer’s market will be called the Birmingham Central Market. The market will be attached to the downtown bus station to make fruits and vegetables accessible to the underserved population of Birmingham, said Terrie Lee-Burrell, grants administrator for the city of Birmingham. Between 2,500 and 11,000 bus riders travel through the intermodal facility, which is MAX Transit’s downtown central station, each day.
“Everybody that rides public transit have to come to the intermodal and change buses. Those riders will be able to walk over and buy food on their way to their destinations,” Lee-Burrell said.
The farmer’s market will only sell fresh fruits and vegetables and maybe honey and jam, but no meats or processed food. Next year, Lee-Burrell says they hope to add fresh breads and some meats from local farmers. City officials plan to have the market open in August. Construction on the structure should start in July.
The market will accept SNAP and EBT payments in addition to cash and credit/debit cards.
“We want to make it accessible for everybody,” she said. We didn’t want to be limited to cash only. We wanted to make sure SNAP ripients can also shop at the farmer’s market.
The market will be open Monday – Friday from 12 to 6:30 p.m.
The farmers’ market is made possible through a $50,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The city has contributed an additional $100,000 to make the market come to life.
The news of the grant and planned market was announced last year, but Lee-Burrell said additional funding was needed in order to build the structure that will house the farmer’s market. The city first matched the $50,000 grant. Last week, the city approved another $50,000 for the project.
The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority also provided $50,000 and $43,000 in in-kind services for the design and construction of the market structure, Lee-Burrell said.
“It took a lot more than anticipated to build a market from ground up,” Burrell said. She said it also took longer than expected to have the designs approved by the city’s design review board.
The city is also working with the Pepper Place market to find local and regional farmers for the market. Six farmers will sell at the market for the first year. The market will be able to house up to 14 farmers.
“We want to work with farmers who live and grow food in Alabama and farmers who live within 100 mile radius of the market,” she said.
The farmer’s market is one of the city’s various efforts to combat food deserts. The term “food desert” is one created by the United States Department of Agriculture to describe census-tract neighborhoods where at least one in three people live more than a mile from fresh food and have no access to a car.
Around 140,000 Birmingham residents (or 69 percent of the city’s population) live in food deserts, according to city officials.
In April, the city approved the Healthy Food Fund, which was created to provide incentives for grocery stores to open new locations in Birmingham.