"Collaborating with the Tacoma Farmers Market has allowed us to eliminate language barriers for food dessert communities and enhance access to healthy, fresh food."
Spring is a joyous time for many of us. Along with the sunshine, we witness the beautiful cherry blossoms and the reopening of farmers markets. However, not everyone can equally enjoy the local produce and eggs found in the local market. Many refugees and immigrants face language and cost barriers that prevent them from enjoying fresh seasonal food. Samara Gonzales, Community Liaison at Tacoma Farmers Market (TFM) in Washington, aimed to tackle this issue by democratizing access to local produce. She designed an innovative approach to combat language and cost barriers faced by underserved communities in food deserts, which are areas with limited access to affordable and healthy foods due to the absence of supermarkets. Samara studied Nutrition at Bastyr University where she conducted research on food access in farmers' market communities. She works closely with TFM and their Fresh Express Mobile Market, driving across Pierce County, bringing fresh produce to food desert communities. Once Samara finds a suitable location she sets up two pop-up tents with four tables, and voila, a mini farmers market emerges! Local communities in food desert areas then have access to fresh produce and seasonal goods harvested and picked by Pierce County farmers. They can also purchase local honey, jams, olive oil, and beautiful fresh pastries. With access to high quality and fresh products, food desert residents are better able to combat the health challenges that they often face. To create a more inclusive environment where barriers such as language, location, and cost don't prevent individuals from accessing healthy food, Samara uses the Tarjimly app to translate informational posters and documents about the market from English to other languages. Even though Samara felt nervous the first time she used Tarjimly, she found the app to be very user-friendly and much easier to use than she had expected. During one session, Samara was paired with a Cantonese translator. After sharing the documents to be translated, the translator shared that she was also from Tacoma and visited the farmers market often. Together, they worked on translating documents and posters to support underserved individuals in Pierce County that spoke a wide variety of languages. To provide reliable food access to all residents, regardless of income, the Fresh Express Mobile Market accepts Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), a government-issued prepaid debit card given to low-income families and individuals to purchase food-related goods. The Tacoma Farmers Market also participates in the Market Match EBT Matching Program, doubling the amount of produce that participants can purchase. As a result, underserved EBT participants can access local produce, at affordable prices. At Tarjimly, we believe healthy, fresh food and language are human rights that should be accessible to all. We are very proud that Samara and the Fresh Express Mobile Market are using our app to introduce seasonal fresh local food to food deserts to help enhance food access. By removing language barriers, Tarjimly is collaborating with the Fresh Express Mobile Market to provide equitable service access to marginalized communities. We hope that we can help Samara continue to find innovative ways to connect, communicate, and serve fresh produce to diverse neighborhoods.