COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban areas across Ohio struggle to avoid being a food desert.
The Linden community in Columbus is one of them, but thanks to the Linden Fresh Market, the community no longer is missing a place to get fresh fruit and vegetables.
Peg Williams knows her way around a good meal, following an old-school cooking style that uses fresh fruits and vegetables to make salads, soups and stews.
As a child, she picked fresh vegetables from her grandmother's garden, but times have changed since then.
She’s been a resident in the Linden area for more than 20 years and has seen the community’s struggles firsthand.
Grocery stores have continued to leave the community, resulting in the area becoming a food desert. In order to be classified as a food desert, the community must struggle to access fresh and affordable food. Corner stores replaced grocers, leading to an increased consumption of snack foods and frozen foods.
“Many of the corner stores started putting food items, stocking food items,” said Williams, a member of the Linden community for over two decades. “Some neighbors could walk to the corner to get what they needed and oftentimes it wasn’t the healthiest option.”
The Linden Fresh Market is hoping to address the issue, working with Mid-Ohio Food Bank, local farmers, and Columbus organizations to provide free and fresh produce.
Market Manager Isaac Baez grew up in Linden and knows the issues they face. He understands that many in the community struggle to make a decision between a healthy meal and money for bills and medicine.
“We’re trying to break that barrier between money and food,” said Baez. “We supply people with fresh produce that they don’t have to pay for."
The market isn’t confined to just Linden residents. The only requirement is to be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
Along with the produce, the market is also home to the community pharmacy where residents can fill their prescriptions for free. The community pharmacy is not new to Columbus, but new to Linden. Working at both locations, Pharmacy Manager Sarah Jones said they are happy to work alongside the fresh market, to provide an all-encompassing health plan for their visitors.
“Diet can make such a difference for our patients' chronic disease states like their high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes,” said Jones. "We’re really excited to be working closely with our patients to help them best utilize those things to support their health alongside the medicine that we give them."
Over time, the store hopes to become a more well-rounded grocer and offer classes and workshops to teach people about the importance of making healthy choices.
“On Fridays, we’re working on doing food demos to show people what makes certain foods healthy,” said Baez. “Also taste test so people know when something is fresh."
Williams walks about three blocks to get to the market and says it reminds her of a time when things were simple and hope it's the beginning of change to come.
“It's the beginning of returning to the healthy lifestyles that we used to live,” said Williams. “It’s also fast-forwarding to possibly having a grocer, a small-scale grocer within the neighborhood that we as residents can own and actually have a part in making the decisions."
The Linden Fresh Market is located at 1464 Cleveland Ave. in Columbus and is open Tuesday through Saturday.