Fresh, Affordable, Healthy: Bradley’s Mini Farmers’ Market
On Friday afternoons Olin Quad transforms into Bradley’s own version of a mini farmers’ market as student shoppers marvel at the selection – and price – of fresh fruits and vegetables at Market 309 at Bradley.
“All of this, for a dollar?” asked one surprised shopper. The question was a delight to Julie Eliathamby, founder of Peoria Grown, which operates Market 309 at several Peoria locations as a community initiative to promote access to affordable, nutritious food.
Since its launch in mid-October, Bradley’s Market 309 outpost has grown in popularity among students. “I think the biggest advantage of having Market 309 on campus is the accessibility,” said senior dietetics major Kori Blumer, a market volunteer who also serves as vice president of the Dietetic Student Association.
Rachel Vollmer, assistant dean for student success at the College of Education and Health Sciences, agreed with the accessibility aspect, stressing the transportation dilemma faced by many students.
“If they don't have a way to get around Peoria, their options to buy fresh fruits and vegetables are pretty limited,” she said. Vollmer is one of the most prominent faculty supporters of Market 309.
During the first Market 309 event, all the goods sold within the first 30 minutes; subsequent markets have proven to be as popular as many students have become regular shoppers. Fresh fruits are a particular favorite among student shoppers, noted several market volunteers.
Larger fruits, like melons, were pre-cut and packaged in containers; vegetables came pre-packaged as well. The convenience helps students living in dorms with limited refrigeration and preparation capacity.
“Market 309 has increased the consumption of fruits and vegetables by students across campus,” observed senior dietetics major Brooks Schmitt, who serves as president of the association. “The market has allowed students to balance their eating habits while simultaneously allowing them to eat foods that they enjoy.”
With seed funding from the Bradley University Family Association and support from Bradley’s Department of Family and Consumer Services, Peoria Grown acquires the fresh produce from Hy-Vee and sells them at or below cost.
“We see this as a joint investment in student well-being,” said Abby Green ‘14, Peoria Grown’s strategic marketing officer. Having access to higher quality food – not just chips and junk food –helps the overall quality of student life.”
Market 309 shifted indoors to Westlake Hall in mid-November where it will remain for the remainder of the semester. While a late October storm prepared the organizers and volunteers for the indoor move, the inclement weather failed to dampen their enthusiasm.
“Eating a balanced diet can be challenging for many people,” said Blumer. “I think Market 309 may help take down that barrier for Bradley students.”
Rain, snow or shine, Market 309 at Bradley is open for students every Friday from 3-5 p.m. during the school year.
– Mel Huang