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The Farmers Market: Better Produce Or Just Hype?

Emma Shepardson |
September 17, 2014 | 6:08 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Berries, very high in antioxidents, are a tasty and healthy snack (Emma Shepardson)
Berries, very high in antioxidents, are a tasty and healthy snack (Emma Shepardson)

When it comes to food choices in college, the more convenient, the better. It’s much easier to pour hot water into Cup-O-Noodles without leaving your room, than going to a grocery store and preparing a meal. It’s all about the efficiency. 

Luckily for USC students, the University Student Government (USG) provides us with a fresh farmers market every Wednesday from 11am-3pm right on McCarthy Quad.

READ ALSO: The Trojan Farmer’s Market: A Shopping Destination For Food AND Fashion

Director of University Affairs, Jordan Fowler, believes that the farmers market encourages students to eat healthier because the food is very accessible. “I believe the goal of the farmers market is one, supporting community outreach - so supporting local venders and farmers in our community - and two, sustainability and supporting healthy food on campus. It also gives students another social gathering place and other options in terms of food on Wednesdays,” Fowler said.

Many students believe the farmers market is a great addition to campus. Sydney Skidmore, a freshman at USC, has been going to farmers markets since she was a little girl, always leaving with bags filled with various products, ranging from fruits and vegetables to homemade soap. As a strong supporter of protecting the environment and local farmers, Skidmore says it’s much more convenient for her to wait until Wednesday to buy food than bike all the way to Whole Foods and back to campus. “I am a foodie,” she said, “I cannot live without my fresh fruit and vegetables!” 

The addition of USC's farmers market on its very own campus is indicative of how increasingly popular these types of places are. With this rise in popularity, however, the markets have become somewhat of a controversial topic. Is a market a superior place to find produce? Is it all really healthier? What's wrong with my neighborhood grocery store? Is it worth the extra cost?

Typically, the produce from farmers markets is more expensive than that found at a grocery store, and so many people believe that farmers markets cater to the wealthy elite. This jump in costs, however, has a few legitimate causes.

Farmers themselves have to increase their costs in order to grow their produce in a pesticide-free environment - which is more expensive - compelling them to sell their product at a high price to compete in the market. Farmers must also sustain their own farms with their own earnings, which also adds to the cost of your final crop. 

Buying food from a farmers market, which is locally grown, is also much better for the environment. Not only does buying local food help support local farms and farmers around your area, but it is also energy efficient. Putting strawberries on a plane from California to New York uses a tremendous amount of fossil fuels. If you live in New York, buying the strawberries that are grown locally is drastically better for the environment.  

Nectarines, peaches and apple-plums, a fruit rarely found in a grocery store. (Emma Shepardson)
Nectarines, peaches and apple-plums, a fruit rarely found in a grocery store. (Emma Shepardson)

With these pros in mind, you might consider stopping by McCarthy on Wednesday afternoons. Though the farmers market might not replace your grocery store trips, there are still plenty of healthy, wholesome choices on hand. Here are some of the best buys at McCarthy to grab on your way to and from class. 

1. Fresh fruit

The majority of the fresh fruit at the farmers market is organic and grown locally in California. Apples, peaches, plums and grapes are just some of the fresh fruit sold at the farmers market. Berries are also a great fruit option, packed with antioxidants that prevent disease. 

2. Hummus 

Made primarily from chickpeas, hummus has become a great alternative to more commonly known (and more unhealthy) condiments.  Chickpeas are naturally low in fat, high in protein and filled with fiber. The olive oil in hummus also contains healthy fats. On a few whole grain pita chips or a handful of vegetables, such as carrots, hummus can be a quick and satisfying snack.  

3. Dried fruits and nuts

The dried fruits and nuts around the farmers market satisfy many different cravings. The healthiest dried fruits are the ones with no added sugar, such as natural mango, natural papaya or natural pineapple. Although there is no added sugar, the natural sugar in fruit makes this a nice sugary substitute. Raw nuts, such as raw almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts and pine nuts, are a great crunchy replacement for potato chips. Dried fruit and nuts together are a healthy sweet-and-salty snack.

4. Falafel

Although falafel is a fried food, which is typically not the best for you, the Ihsan’s Falafel tent at the farmers market at USC tends to be the exception. All of their products are made from completely organic ingredients, and are also vegan and gluten free. Falafel itself is also a great alternative for meat, filled with fiber and protein from its main ingredient, chickpeas. With four delicious options, Ihsan’s Falafel is a great for a lunch on the go. 

5. Bakery items

Everyone loves a delicious brownie or cookie, and the CaveGirl Cupboard provides a healthy version of these yummy desserts. The ingredients are all 100% nuts as well as unrefined, not processed and all natural. These bakery treats are just right after a long and busy day.   

Reach Staff Reporter Emma Shepardson here or follow her on Twitter here.



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