Happy July Everyone!

As you know, at Tri 4 Schools we aim to encourage healthy lifestyles amongst kids in our community! While getting active and signing up for our Middleton Triathlon (which you can do here) are essential in pursuing this mission, physical activity is only one part of the puzzle. In addition to exercise, nutrition is equally important to embracing a healthy lifestyle.

Madison and the surrounding communities in Dane County are some of the best places to access nutritious food and organic produce in the country. In fact, Madison has the largest producers-only farmers market in the nation! While downtown Madison has the feel of an urban city, bike 20 miles in any direction and you’ll be sitting smack in the middle of a cornfield. We live in one of the richest agricultural counties in the U.S.

However, there are still areas within our community that do not have easy access to fresh food. These districts are often referred to as “food deserts.”

What is a food desert? The USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) defines a food desert as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.” These communities often lack physical and financial access to large supermarkets and grocery stores. Instead, these neighborhoods are swamped with fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. This contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases.

Take a look at this map below to see where some of Madison’s food deserts are located (highlighted in green):

Madison Food DesertsMap courtesy of USDA

Luckily, there are many ways our community is coming together to provide its inhabitants with easier and more affordable access to healthy food. Most of us are familiar with the Farmer’s Market on the Capitol Square, but did you know there are 8 other Farmer’s Markets in the community?

These include:

  • Eastside Farmers’ Market

When: Tuesdays, 4-7pm May – October
Where: 953 Jenifer Street

  • Capital View Farmers’ Market

When: Wednesdays, 3-7pm June – October (go to website for exact dates)
Where: Corner of Northstar and Sharpsburg Dr., Grandview Commons Neighborhood, east of the Interstate off Cottage Grove Rd. 

  • Northside Farmers’ Market

    When: Sunday Mornings, May – October 8:30am – 12:30pm
    Where: Northside TownCenter (corner of Sherman and Northport Drive) 

  • Labor Temple Market 

When: Sundays, 11am – 3pm, and Tuesdays, 2pm – 6pm Spring through late October
Where: Labor Temple, 1602 South Park Street

  • Villager Mall Market

When: Fridays, 2pm – 6pm Early June through late October
Where: The Villager Mall 

  • Southwest Madison Farmers’ Market

    When: Wednesdays, 3pm – 7pm May – October
    Where: Gilbert Road, at United Church of Christ

  • Hilldale Farmers’ Market

    When: Wednesday and Saturday Mornings, 7am – 1pm
    Where: Hilldale Mall: May – November 5 outdoors in rear parking lot; November – April inside Hilldale shopping center

  • Westside Communty Market

    When: Saturdays, 7am – 1pm April – November
    Where: Hill Farms Department of Transportation Parking Lot 

Be sure to check out the Farmer’s Market closest to you!

In addition to Farmer’s Markets located all over the city, Madison boasts an increasing number of Community Gardens and Farm to School programs. Since 2002, the number of community gardens in the Madison area have doubled! These gardens can significantly decrease food costs for families. Even better, gardeners have the opportunity to learn about growing their own food, while fostering relationships with their neighbors in the community.

Farm to School programs encourage healthy lifestyles among kids by integrating locally grown fruits and vegetables into the school district’s lunch and snack programs. This not only provides students with the opportunity to enjoy fresh produce, but supports our local farmers by buying their produce in bulk and giving them the recognition the deserve. A win-win for the community!

While there are many people in the Madison area who do not have access to nutritious food, the community is responding by expanding and supporting our Farmer’s Markets, Community Gardens, and Farm to School programs. By working together, we can continue to improve access to healthy food for all residents in our community, and encourage healthy lifestyles for all!

Check out some of our Nutrition Tips on our website here!