In Your Neighborhood

Sankofa World Market helps West End community grow some roots

Wednesday afternoon market on Elmwood Avenue helping to knit together and redefine the neighborhood

Photo by Richard Asinof

A new shopper is welcomed at Sankofa World Market.

Photo by Richard Asinof

Southside Community Land Trust and its network of start-up growers offer locally grown healthy produce every week at the Sankofa World Market.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 8/31/15
The Sankofa World Market has pumped new life into the West End of Providence, offering a way for the community to interact, to grow and prosper.
Will Gov. Gina Raimondo plan to stop by with her husband and children to go shopping one Wednesday evening? Is there a better place in Rhode Island to get an authentic dinner of jerk chicken, red beans and rice, fried plaintains and salad? Will the Sankofa Market share the winning recipes on its website from Genesis Center and Dorcas International Institute?
The vision of community developed by committed West End residents in March reads, with a bit of both promise and hope: “The West End is a great place to live and raise a family: safe, clean and vibrant. This year’s goal is to get to know our neighbors better.”

PROVIDENCE – This coming Wednesday, Sept. 2, the Sankofa World Market at 275 Elmwood Ave. in the West End, in front of the Knight Memorial Library, will be featuring two recipes from the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island cookbook, with two students preparing and sharing traditional dishes and handing out the recipes for the dishes.

The modest local farmer’s market, located in front of the library, which is open from 3 p.m. through 7 p.m. every Wednesday afternoon through Sept. 30, is finishing up its second year of operation.

"We normally have between 11 and 20 vendors every week", explained Adeline Newbold, who manages the market for the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation.

“Last week, we had 18 vendors,” she said. “We also had a cook-off, featuring students who are part of the culinary program at Genesis Center.”

The students had $40 to spend on purchasing farm produce at the market, then cook up a meal, Newbold explained, with three judges choosing the winner.

Every week, the Sankofa World Market features the produce from three locally grown sources, including Finch Farm in Rehoboth, Mass., and many start-up urban growers from the West End and the South Side through the Southside Community Land Trust, according to Newbold.

In addition, there is often live music, vendors selling prepared food such as jerk chicken and tacos, and numerous activities for children, including face-painting and hula hoops.

“The food is the center of the market,” said Newbold. “We have been marketing the accessibility and the convenience of the market.”

Catching on
Sankofa is a Ghanian word that translates to: “Go back and get it.”

The market is part of program to create some 20 raised beds to help build a stronger community in the West End through healthy foods, economic opportunity and neighbor-to-neighbor relationships, according to Rachel Newman Greene, director of Partnerships and Community Projects at West Elmwood.

The underlying vision of the project is to make the West End a healthier place by improving access to healthy food for a low-income population. There are plans to develop some 10,000 square feet of community gardens as a way of “cultivating land, lives and community.”

The initiative is one of nine pilot projects begun in Rhode Island funded by the Centers for Health, Equity and Wellness program at the R.I. Department Health.

This year, in collaboration with Farm Fresh Rhode Island, the market offers bonus bucks to SNAP users – every $5 in SNAP benefits spent gets an additional $2 to spend on fresh produce.

From tomatoes to garlic to cucumbers to peppers, as well as some specific African produce unavailable in most of other markets, there always appeared to be a beehive of activity around the growers when ConvergenceRI visited the market last week.

Community perspective
The Sankofa World Market is very much a low-key, modest economic venture, compared to some of the other more established farmer’s markets in Rhode Island. In terms of larger economic ventures – be they new partnerships around the defense industries, planned new investments on the former Route 195 land, proposed stadiums or new nursing centers under construction, it falls well below the radar screen. It probably would never register on Len Lardaro’s economic index for Rhode Island.

But it is a vital positive sign of a community growing roots, and with it, beginning to take charge of its own future direction. Call it a small step for community, but an important one. And, in the next month, on a Wednesday afternoon or evening, perhaps worth a visit.

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