Spotlight: L.E.S. Youthmarket's Phylisha Conyers

At the end of last month, during the busy season at Youthmarket, we visited our Lower East Side Youthmarket which is in partnership with Henry Street Settlement, whose mission is to ”open doors of opportunity for Lower East Side residents and other New Yorkers through social services, arts and health care programs.” This market is open on Thursdays through November 21st, from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
 
What is Youthmarket? It is a network of urban farm stands operated by neighborhood youth, supplied by local farmers and designed to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to communities throughout New York City. Youthmarket offers families in NYC increased access to farm fresh food, youth in these areas earn money and learn small-business skills, and farmers in the New York City region continually achieve higher revenue through access to under-served markets.
 

 
It was a hot, sunny Thursday afternoon, the type that makes you slow and lethargic, with the heat like an inescapably stifling blanket. But as we approached the Lower East Side Youthmarket on Grand Street, there was no sign that the summer’s worst had done its work. There was a flurry of activity. Everywhere else along the block it was empty and quiet, but the farm stand was a hub of lively chatter and busy hands.
 
We found Phylisha Conyers busily stringing together small cards with vegetable names written on them, to be used as signs indicating the type and cost of produce displayed. She agreed to a quick interview while her hands continued to be productive, without missing a beat.
 
 
 
 
How did you get involved with GrowNYC's Youthmarket?
I heard about the Youthmarket program from one of my Project RISE supervisors at the Henry Street Settlement. I am working towards getting my diploma there. When I heard about Youthmarket, I thought: “Okay that seems interesting!” I mean this is something I've never done before and I wanted the experience.
 
I tried it out with my sister, Tiana Conyers, who’s in the same program with me. We went to orientation, which was about 9 hours long, but really interesting. So I agreed to join. 
 
What has the experience been like so far?
I’ve been here since July 10th of this year. It’s been really cool. In the beginning it was a bit overwhelming. When we began set up, there were so many people lined up already - we hadn’t even started yet! But I figured it out and learned a lot along the way, so the customers are always taken care of. The market is open every Thursday, so you’ll find me here!
 
What is your favorite item on sale here today?
I would have to say…the plums and the kale. The plums are so sweet.
 
(Phylisha's sister, Tiana Conyers, chimes in) Tiana: Say the peaches. They’re better.
 
Phylisha: I like the plums the best. As for kale, we never tried it before working here, but we recently tried juicing it and it was so good.
 
Tiana: Also, the corn here is so different from regular supermarket corn. Frozen corn is like dead corn compared to this! One other thing I learned is about carrot tops: you should use them. People often throw them away but I learned we can make delicious pesto with it. We cook together every week. I believe we’re doing collard greens today.
 
 
 
In your spare time, what hobbies do you have?
Right now I’m really interested in photography. It would be cool to become a photographer someday. Aside from photography, I also love make-up. I do that for fun, to be creative.
 
What do you believe is the importance of what you do here? 
Reaching out to the community, to people who are struggling, to those who don’t have access to things others do - I feel it’s so good to help them. People come here and buy their food every week, and it’s so good to serve them here on a regular basis. We have friendly customers and I love seeing them.
 

 

The Lower East Side Youthmarket is located on Grand Street between Pitt and Willett Streets, Manhattan. It is in operation every Thursday through November 21st, from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

When cows fly…

You can now find a little piece of the Hudson Valley on your next JetBlue flight. Ronnybrook Dairy’s blackberry drinkable yogurt is available now on select JetBlue flights to California departing from JFK Airport in New York City and Boston’s Logan International.

Ronnybrook Dairy, located in the Hudson Valley in Ancramdale, New York has been selling at GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets for many years and shoppers can’t get enough. Each market morning, they line up to exchange last week’s bottles and stock up on the dairy’s farm fresh Creamline milk and chocolate milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt and cheeses. Long a favorite of Greenmarket shoppers and staff alike, Ronnybrook’s yogurt drink is the perfect snack to enjoy on your next JetBlue flight out west!

Find out which markets Ronnybrook attends here.

Foothold Technology's Volunteer Day: An Interview with Founder and CMO Nick Scharlatt

Grow-To-Learn

On June 24th, Foothold Technology spent the day volunteering at PS 25 Eubie Blake School in Brooklyn.  The enthusiastic team revived the school’s garden area by clearing weeds, building raised beds, and constructing benches for an outdoor classroom. We spoke to Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Nick Scharlatt about his experience.

How did you first get involved with GrowNYC?

I first heard about GrowNYC in 2007, and by 2008 I had joined the Board!  I grew up in the city, just a few blocks from a recycling plant and a Greenmarket, so the idea of being involved and supporting GrowNYC’s work appealed to me. 

Why did you choose a school garden as a volunteer opportunity for your team?

Grow to Learn is among my favorite GrowNYC programs.  It offers what I call a “big win from a small age” – a chance to have a significant and long-lasting effect on kids, starting when they are young.  A work day in a school garden is also an opportunity to get a lot done!  If you start out with a rough plan, big overhaul becomes possible with a team of volunteers.  We can get the job done!  


How did your team react to the idea of a work day in a school garden? 

When I made the announcement to my team, people were really excited – except for one volunteer who had nightmarish flashbacks to weeding as a kid in his family’s garden!  Grow to Learn made working at a school garden totally “turn key”:  the problem was there, the equipment was there, and we were the solution.  

What were some of your favorite moments from the work day?

There was a lot of cross-team collaboration, so people who don’t necessarily ever work together were getting deep into the roots together – literally!  People who didn’t really know each other wound up working together for hours, trying to pull out a root stump, or building beds together.  

Grow-To-Learn

What do you think were the benefits of the work day for your team? The school?

The team as a whole really got behind the project.  As we were seeing how much we got done, we felt the satisfaction of the job well done.  And, talking to the staff and community members at the school, it was clear that, no matter how much of the school is involved, it sometimes feels like there’s never enough resources.  The Janitor said the job would have taken him six months alone, so it felt important to support school gardens by bringing resources, and so much human power, to tackle something and make a big impact there.

Why would you encourage others to donate to Grow to Learn? 

Every kid should experience the kind of space we were able to help build.  It shouldn’t be that only some students get to experience the variety of life experiences, curriculum, and outdoors that a school garden offers.  Grow to Learn gives kids who don’t have many opportunities to leave the city or get a taste of the outdoors a way to learn through nature.  All of a sudden, in front of everyone’s noses, there’s this amazing school resource that we could help make usable.  There’s a satisfaction for everyone who supports school gardens in knowing that with a few hours or few dollars you can change the way a whole school relates to the outdoors.

Grow-To-Learn

Fresh Foodbox profiled in the Observer

GrowNYC's Fresh Foodbox program was recently profiled in a New York Observer article entitled "Overpriced and Underserved: How One Group is Fighting Food Deserts in NYC."  We couldn't have said it better ourselves!

In a city that seems to have a grocery store or fruit stand on every block, it might be surprising to learn that fresh produce is often inaccessible to many New Yorkers. But in areas known as "food deserts," quality produce is difficult to find, especially on a budget. Fortunately, an expanding program at GrowNYC is striving to make eating fruits and vegetables cool, accessible and affordable again.

Each FoodBox includes a fruit, a cooking green, a raw green, an aromatic (i.e. garlic, scallion, onion), and 5-8 fresh and seasonal vegetables. Ms. Tucker claimed that buyers are often surprised by how much food is actually in a FoodBox — enough to feed a family of four for a week when supplemented with grains and proteins.

Although Fresh FoodBox is aimed at underserved areas throughout the city and accepts EBT/SNAP benefits in addition to cash and credit/debit, Ms. Tucker pointed out that areas lacking access to quality produce are not necessarily located in poorer neighborhoods.

"We have a FoodBox [site] on the Upper East Side,” Ms. Tucker noted “… [Participants] are so excited because everything in the area is Coach handbag stores, but you can’t buy an apple."

Read the article!

A Day in the Life: A Grow to Learn School Garden tour

Grow to Learn celebrated the end of the 2013-14 school year with a tour of four school gardens in Harlem and the Bronx. Since launching in February 2011, 438 schools have joined Grow to Learn, making them eligible for garden grant funding, training and materials offered by Grow to Learn partners GrowNYC, NYC Parks Department’s GreenThumb Division and NYC Department of Education’s Office of SchoolFood. Join us on this virtual tour of some dynamic school gardening programs:

Stepping into the hydroponics classroom at PS 208m The Alain L. Locke Magnet School for Environmental Stewardship, several fifth graders sat huddled over small tanks in front of them.  They were adjusting and observing the miniature hydroponics systems they had designed and built themselves.  Behind them stood the rows of basil, rainbow chard, and lettuce they’d been tending in the larger classroom system that served as their model. 

The class, taught by hydroponics teacher Tina Wong, begins with the history and basics of hydroponics, includes lots of planting and harvesting (each student tends to one plant, and picks what they get to grow), and ends with a STEM-infused experimental design unit.  Next year, students will test their know-how against the elements by expanding their garden – for the first time – outdoors.  With the help of City Year and Grow to Learn staff, PS 208 built an outdoor garden area with raised beds in cheerful shades of purple, yellow, red, and blue.  During the coming school year, students will run a small farmers’ market as part of their class, learning economics and business principles as they garden.

Ask the students at Family Life Academy Charter School, the next stop on our tour, if they know a good place to get local produce, and they might just tell you their roof.  During our visit, FLACS students could be spotted pulling young carrots straight from the ground, lining up at the hose for a quick rinse, and munching away.  Between bites, students shared a variety of facts they’d learned researching different crops in the garden (originally, students had been asked to create labels for crops, but got so excited they would up making a fact-packed laminated brochure for every plant in the garden). 

The school’s chef, Chef Bennett, looked on proudly.  He uses garden produce (especially herbs) in the school’s cafeteria, and uses the garden as a way to make healthy eating more appetizing, exciting, and understandable to the students that pass through his lunchroom.  We were lucky enough to stay for lunch, and enjoyed a fresh salad bar, roasted cauliflower, and other healthy treats!

At Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy, students spoke eloquently about the hard work and long hours they’d contributed to the garden.  They shared their different roles (from seed-purchaser to resident photographer), their garden struggles (a four-flight bucket brigade to bring soil to their terrace garden came to mind), and the rewards of all their hard work – like pesto from garden-grown basil served in the cafeteria.  Currently in their second season, the Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy gardeners felt more seasoned, and expected to produce over 400 tomatoes – a bumper crop compared to the four they said they harvested last year!

We ended the day with a sweet surprise at PS 154x Jonathan D. Hyatt: members of the Chicken and Garden Club greeted us at the garden gate with a bucket of freshly picked raspberries.  Older students, about to graduate, showed up-and-coming Garden Club students the ropes: from watering, to weeding, to eating radishes straight from the ground.  Most exciting, though, was the run on the far side of the building where “The Ladies” live.  Four hens (Storm, CoCo, Tami, and Diva) live and roost in a coop and run abutting Alexander Avenue, and are a constant source of curiosity and delight for teachers, students, neighborhood residents, and passersby.

Health Bucks are Back!

From now until November, while supplies last, for every $5 you spend with your EBT card at one of our Greenmarkets, you will receive a $2 Health Bucks coupon good for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables in the market.

The Health Bucks initiative was developed by the NYC Health Department District Public Health Offices and in 2013, GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets distributed over $260,000 worth of Health Bucks at 51 market locations. The increase of 40% in buying power can help increase a Food Stamp budget and encourage shoppers to spend more of their monthly Food Stamp allotment on fresh produce from the market. Overall, this innovative program helps GrowNYC/Greenmarket provide additional opportunities for shoppers to access fresh and affordable produce in NYC.

Ever wondered if you might qualify for EBT/Foodstamp benefits? There are over 500,000 people in New York City that qualify for EBT/Foodstamps but do not receive them. Several of our markets will be holding EBT screening sessions throughout the summer to help New Yorkers find out if they qualify for Foodstamps and provide them with resources on how to file for those benefits. Partners including The New York City Coalition Against Hunger, The Food Bank of New York City, and The Met Council will be on hand at Union Square Greenmarket through the end of August on Mondays and Fridays from 9 am to 2 pm and at other markets throughout the summer and fall. Visit your local market webpage to find out if they will be hosting an upcoming screening.   

Learn more about GrowNYC's EBT and Food Access programs.

Governors Island Urban Farm is Open

GrowNYC is excited to announce the opening of a brand new urban farm on Governors Island! Governors Island Urban Farm, which was created as a result of the combined efforts of GrowNYC and the Trust for Governors Island, is an 8,000 square foot urban farm that will feature over 20 vegetable beds made from recycled plastic lumber, a gourd tunnel, fruit trees, a bean teepee, an outdoor kitchen, and so much more!

The farm will host free field trips for New York City public school and summer camp groups April-November. If you would like to schedule a field trip for the Summer 2014 season, please fill out the Field Trip Request Form. Due to the high demand of field trips, a spot is not guaranteed.

In addition to scheduled school visits, the farm will host gardening workshops and will be open to the public during weekends from July 12 through September 28, 12pm-4pm. GrowNYC will provide tours, volunteer opportunities, and activities for children and families. Please check our website for scheduled events.

If you are interested in receiving information about upcoming field trip, workshop, or volunteer opportunities, please fill out the Governors Island Urban Farm Survey.

4th of July Greenmarket Schedule Changes

Friday, July 4th, schedule changes for Greenmarkets and food scrap/textile collections are below. All Saturday and Sunday markets will be OPEN this weekend.
Have a great 4th of July! 

OPEN GREENMARKETS 
Union Square Greenmarket, MN: There will be food scrap collections. 
97th Street Greenmarket, MN: There will be food scrap and textile collections. 

CLOSED GREENMARKETS 
Parkchester Greenmarket, BX: There will be NO food scrap/textile collections.
Lincoln Hospital Greenmarket, BX 
City Hall Park Greenmarket, MN
Staten Island Ferry Terminal Greenmarket, MN


 

GrowNYC and Sierra Club Puerto Rico Team Up to “Recicla Boricua” at Puerto Rican Day Parade


Over 100 bags of recyclable materials were collected by volunteers. 

The highly celebrated National Puerto Rican Day Parade that descended upon Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on Sunday, June 8 was red and white and green all over. A plan to educate participants about waste reduction, reuse and recycling resulted in more than 318 pounds of recyclable materials collected by GrowNYC and the Sierra Club Puerto Rico chapter. 50 volunteers trained by GrowNYC’s office of Recycling Outreach and Education marched in the parade alongside the Puerto Rico Chapter of the Sierra Club in an effort to help an estimated audience of 2,000,000 keep it green. With signs and banners within in hand, volunteers approached spectators to collect beverage bottles and other recyclables for the duration of the event. GrowNYC’s free event recycling services included volunteer recruitment, outreach to parade float participants before the event, education on recycling rules and the creation of an event recycling plan to reduce waste at the parade.

Recycling at Greenmarkets as Bountiful as the Produce

GrowNYC Greenmarkets are opening for the season throughout the city, bringing with them not only a bounty of fresh regional products, but also expanding weekly opportunities for New Yorkers to recycle textiles and compost food scraps. 

In 2007, GrowNYC’s newly-created Office of Recycling Outreach and Education began testing a program to collect clothing and textiles at Union Square and Grand Army Plaza Greenmarkets.  Tax-deductible donations of textiles such as Sustainability Center at Greenmarketclothing, shoes and towels are collected and later sorted for reuse, or recycled into new products such as wiping rags and insulation. We quickly discovered New Yorkers’ dedication to living sustainably and have met their demand for more recycling--36 Greenmarkets now offer this service, with 10 new locations starting up this spring and summer.    

Since 2011, GrowNYC has worked to complement existing Greenmarket food scrap collections run by BIG!Compost and the Lower East Side Ecology Center, to meet the growing chorus of Greenmarket shoppers wishing to bring back trimmings from their weekly market haul.  Today, in partnership with the NYC Department of Sanitation and community partners, 38 Greenmarkets host food scrap drop-offs at least once a week.  Material collected is transported to one of several local sites in the five boroughs where it is transformed into compost, a fertile soil amendment for use in urban farming and gardening programs.

GrowNYC has collected more than 2.7 million pounds of textiles and 2.85 million pounds of food scraps at dozens of Greenmarket collection sites throughout the city.  Together, food scraps and textiles comprise 23% of NYC’s waste, making efforts like these critical to reducing the big apple’s environmental footprint. 

Find a list of Greenmarkets accepting food scraps at www.grownyc.org/compost and a list of textile collection sites at www.grownyc.org/clothing, or call 212-788-7964.

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