WESTERLY — The Jonnycake Center of Westerly's no-cost farmers market for families and folks who can benefit from access to fresh produce has returned.

The market begins at 9 a.m. every Wednesday morning until mid-to-late September. The weekly market lasts until the day's supplies are gone, usually between 11 a.m. and noon. The market is conducted at the center's rear parking lot at 23 Industrial Drive.

"It's our favorite time of the year. We love being able to chit chat with everybody and talk about the different things they can do with vegetables," said Sarah Shaw, who manages the center's food pantry.

Most of the produce comes from a community garden in Charlestown where the center farms a patch that is about one third of an acre and generally produces about 4,000 pounds of produce each year for the center and food pantries run by other organizations. Produce at the markets also comes from grocery stores, produce wholesalers, and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, which provides a solid amount of locally grown items, Shaw said.

"Fresh produce is something I'm very passionate about for our clients because fresh fruits and vegetables are so important to our diet," Shaw said.

Those in need of fresh produce can attend the market weekly. A tent the center acquired for COVID-19 vaccine clinics will be used for the market, which will allow the event to go forward except for in extreme conditions or lightning storms, Shaw said.

Unlike last year when the market ran as a drive-through operation due to the pandemic and distributed "mystery bags" filled with an assortment of produce, those who attend this year will be able to select the items they want, Shaw said.

One or two community organizations will attend the market weekly to discuss their services, and Shaw said a weekly prize is often offered. Prizes in the past have included reusable grocery bags. Shaw suggested watching the center's Facebook page for announcements related to the market, such as organizations that will attend.

The Jonnycake Center of Westerly is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides services designed to lift individuals in need out of crisis and lead them toward a path of self-sufficiency. The center’s primary services include its food pantry, which provided over 233,000 meals to the community in 2019-20; social services, which distributed over $111,000 in emergency financial assistance to nearly 3,000 local residents in the last year; and holiday gifts and meals, which served over 1,500 struggling residents and children in 2020. The center also provides volunteer opportunities that welcome people of all ages and abilities; educational initiatives, including training for underemployed adults (temporarily paused during the pandemic); and a 7,000-square-foot thrift store, which provides approximately 50% of the funding necessary for the center to stay operational.

For more information visit the Jonnycake Center's website at jonnycake.org or call 401-377-8069 or visit the center at 23 Industrial Drive.

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