August 10, 2012

Kaiser Permanente farmers markets: From 1 to 52

Working with an energetic Oakland Medical Center colleague, Jeanne O'Reilly, and the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association, we opened the first Kaiser Permanente farmers market on a sunny, breezy day in May 2003. It was a great day. A woman ran up to me and asked, out of breath, how much longer the market was going to be open. I said " At least another hour" She said "Oh good. I have to drop my husband off at the emergency room and I'll be right back!"

Throughout Kaiser Permanente nationally there are many people with discretionary energy like Jeanne O'Reilly who have created markets at their facilities or out in the community. Ruth Conley, now retired, of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Learning and Counseling Center, pulled together a number of community organizations along with KP to bring 20 producers to the Ted Watkins Community Park in a neighborhood with limited fresh food access. Thanks to her, the residents of Watts have had access to fresh fruits and vegetables right in their own neighborhood for the last five years. The video I'm sharing here reflects some of the great work we've been able to do to engage children and our communities in our markets.

KP's 52 markets are ably watched over by Kathleen Reed, Kaiser Pemanente's Sustainable Food System Manager. She brings the farmers markets champions together from around the country to share ideas to grow our markets.

There are now at least another 50 markets at facilities in other health care systems. It has been a privilege for us to share what we have learned with others to help them get started. The manager of the Vanderbilt University market in Nashville used to send me the reports about the sales at their newly created market including the temperature, humidity, and presence or absence of storms.

I must admit that one of my favorite farmers markets is outside the door of my hospital. I love nothing more in the summer than Roberto Rodrigues' organically grown strawberries from Watsonville. It is truly a miracle they are right out in front of where I work convenient for me, the rest of the staff, our members visitng the hospital, and the surrounding neighborhood.

During this national Farmers Market Week, maybe you can visit a local market near you and find the ingredients to create some magic in the kitchen.