Farmers’ Market’s Questionable Contribution To Health Eating

Farmers-MarketVisiting the local farmers’ market is one of our family’s dearest weekend rituals. It is indeed hard to not come away feeling that you’ve done good for yourself (thanks to the fresh produce) and for the local farmer community.

But this illusion is challenged by Sean Lucan and colleagues from New York in a paper published in Appetite.

The researchers assessed all farmers’ markets in Bronx County (n=26), NY, in terms of specific foods offered, and compareed their accessibility as well as produce variety, quality, and price to that of nearby stores (within a half-mile walking distance, n=44).

Not surprisingly, farmers’ markets were substantially less accessible (open fewer months, days and hours), carried far fewer items and were far more expensive than nearby stores that also sold fresh produce.

The researchers also found that about one third of what farmers’ markets sold was not fresh at all, but rather consisted of refined or processed foods including jams, pies, cakes, cookies, donuts, and juice drinks).

Thus, overall, the researchers conclude that,

“Farmers’ Markets offer many items not optimal for good nutrition and health, and carry less-varied, less-common fresh produce in neighborhoods that already have access to stores with cheaper prices and overwhelmingly more hours of operation.’

So, while there may well be good reasons to celebrate your local farmers’ market, their contribution to improving population health through healthy nutrition, is probably not one them.

They are indeed little more than “feel-good boutiques” for a small minority of the urban population, who values and is willing to pay dearly for the experience.

No surprise there I guess.

Edmonton, AB