Sarah Simeziane of The Land Connection/Champaign Farmers Market stopped by in our Giving Back segment to tell us about volunteer opportunities within the market.
Champaign County grapples with one of the highest poverty and food insecurity rates in the state of Illinois. Thousands of Champaign residents alone live in neighborhoods classified by the USDA as food deserts, meaning they have limited access to grocery stores, making it difficult to access nutritious foods. At the same time, we are surrounded by small farms who produce a wide array of local foods, but cannot always connect to enough customers to sell everything they grow, raise, or produce. The Champaign Farmers Market seeks to connect these groups by providing local farmers with a midweek direct sales opportunity and by offering a SNAP matching program that makes local food, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, more accessible and affordable to low-income families. Every week, Link cardholders can swipe their card at the Market in exchange for tokens they can spend with the vendors, and we match their purchases up to $20/week. In addition, on the second Tuesday of every month, we offer an additional match for Triple Link Tuesday, where Link shoppers can get up to $40 extra to spend on fresh, local food. On the last Tuesday of every month, we also offer an End-of-Month Bonus of $10 for SNAP shoppers, no matter how much they swipe. In addition, we’re piloting a Winter Bonus program that will help SNAP customers afford more fresh produce in the off-season at the Urbana Market in the Square.
Why do you need volunteers out at the Champaign Farmers’ Market?
The Market is operated by a small local non-profit, with just 5 full-time employees and one part-time market assistant. On Market Day we really need extra hands to get set-up and packed up fast, particularly in the heat of the summer.
What will volunteers do at the Market?
We have three primary needs: set-up, help during the market, and tear-down
Set-up runs from 1:30-3:30 every Tuesday, where we need help retrieving tents, tables, and equipment from storage, setting them up, and getting ready for the market to open. This does
tend to be the more strenuous job and involves some walking and lifting, but with more hands, the easier and faster it goes for everyone. We generally need 2-3 extra people during set-up.
During the Market we have a few options. If you like talking to people, we are looking for help greeting patrons, running surveys, and helping out with children’s activities or special programming (or even wear a veggie costume, if you feel like some extra fun). For volunteers with good customer service skills who can commit to joining us 2-3 times per month, we’re also looking for help running Link transactions in our informational tent. This job can be done sitting down, and it’s in the shade, so it’s not quite as physically taxing.
At the end of the day is perhaps our biggest need: tear down, from 6:15 until around 7:15 (sometimes earlier if we have extra help). For tear-down, we are looking for 2-3 extra people to help take down and pack up tents, tables, signage, and other equipment and move it to nearby storage. We’ve got an effective plan in place, and with a few extra pairs of hands we are often done by 7.
New incentive for volunteers: for every Market worked, volunteers will receive a coupon for $3 off at Dragon Fire Pizza
DATE AND TIME OF VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY:
Tuesdays through October 30. Different shifts available from 1:30 through 7:30pm
How can we learn more about this event?