As the bell rang on one of the last days of the school year, students at Edgewater High School lined up outside The Eagles Market. The market is one of 8 middle and high schools participating in a pilot project to reach one of Central Florida’s most vulnerable, food insecure populations: teenagers.
The School Market Program provides free snacks, meal items and fresh produce to students without question or eligibility requirements.
National Honor Society members help operate and stock the market. Harper, the incoming NHS president, is proud of the team that works in the market. She explains that their job is to be welcoming and help students find what they need. Grab and go snacks and granola bars are popular, especially for first-time visitors. On the next trip, students might grab something for home, like oatmeal or peanut butter.
“I see some of the same people here every day. They depend on it,” says Harper.
In addition to regular access during the school day, typically during lunch, once a month the market opens after school to offer fresh produce. Five students at a time enter the room to fill a bag with fruits and vegetables. Today’s selection includes mangos, pineapples, pears, carrots, celery and broccoli.
“Where are the mangos?” one student asks as he rushes inside to fill his bag. He’s just a minute too late. Mangos were one of the most popular items requested on a recent survey and they were the first item to be out of stock that afternoon.
Another student scans the selection. She grabs two pears, and then a jar of peanut butter from the pantry shelves. “Some celery would be a great snack with that peanut butter,” Harper suggests. The girl agrees, adds the celery to her bag and makes a beeline for the bus. “Thank you!” she calls over her shoulder.
A special thanks to the partners that made the first year at Edgewater High School a tremendous success, including College Park Methodist Church, Fannie Hillman + Associates, Publix Supermarkets and BJs. The market will shut down over the summer and reopen in August. Students who have come to rely on the market can access free nutritious meals all summer long through Second Harvest Food Bank’s Summer Food Service program and Summer Break Spot locations.