Packaging of our Fresh Start Kits at Atherton Market

Saturday morning at Atherton Market last week was filled with the usual vendors local Charlotteans have come to expect: farmers showcasing colorful produce, small business owners displaying handcrafted items, coffeemakers brewing hot and cold drinks with enticing aromas—the joy of market shopping was in full effect. But on this morning, there was a new addition to the market: Pop Up Produce, a grant recipient winner from Emerging City Champions sponsored by 8 80 Cities and the Knight Foundation, set up various workstations to sort, build and package Fresh Start kits.

Lynn Caldwell is Atherton Mill and Market’s Manager and an advocate for fresh, local food. Believing in Pop Up Produce’s initiative and offering her support, she graciously allowed Pop Up Produce to use market space that morning for twenty-five volunteers to work together and package Fresh Start kits. The notion behind the kits is when one individual purchases a Fresh Start kit of their own, a kit is gifted to a family or individual residing in a food desert and/or attending a Title 1 urban school. Both parties are empowered to grow their own food while being educated on the benefits of fresh produce.

Market patrons were curious as cardboard boxes were assembled, seeds were counted and sorted, large bags of compost were proportionately allocated into individual bags, and assembly lines were formed to put the kit components together. Several patrons even stopped to learn more about Pop Up Produce’s mission and how best to contribute to the cause or purchase a kit for themselves. It was a wonderful opportunity to bring community together.

The partnerships and volunteers made this event the success it was, hands down. Crown Town Compost willingly donated 8 bags of compost towards the kits; a true partnership has been formed over like minds connecting and working together for a greater cause. Several volunteers brought along their children, ranging in age from four years old to high school, to help with various volunteer tasks. Parents were able to teach their children about helping others and giving back, even receiving school volunteer credit. Volunteers made new friends with one another, family members bonded over working side by side, and new partnerships were formed from connections made during the packaging event.

Erin Russell, one of the volunteers, won a Fresh Start kit through the raffle and several others either purchased or donated a kit; not only did these amazing volunteers donate their time, but also their money for believing in the cause. Bryce Lagueux, one of the younger volunteers, remarked how by the end of the volunteer event he felt very satisfied; by giving some of his time, he was able to give back to his community and help so many people learn how to grow food. Over 160 Fresh Start kits were assembled on site in a little over two hours. A big thank you to everyone involved, for none of this could have been done without your help. Pop Up Produce’s pop up operation was a true success!

Over 160 Fresh Start kits were assembled on site in a little over two hours. A big thank you to everyone involved, for none of this could have been done without your help. Pop Up Produce’s pop up operation was a true success!