LAFAYETTE, La. — The Fightinville Fresh Market Plant Palooza encourages residents of Lafayette to grow their own gardens to promote healthy eating and ultimately spend less money at the grocery stores.
According to the Department of Agriculture, prices for fresh fruits increased by 1.9 percent in January 2023. In food deserts like Fightingville, where the selection of affordable and fresh produce is scarce, markets like these that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), can ultimately empower families and allow them to eat better at a lower cost.
Johanna Babineaux-Zeno the CEO OF En'Juice Me, a juicing company that regularly sells at the market, grew up in the Fightingville neighborhood and realized the lack of fresh produce around her community and wanted to do something about it.
"Being able to come back to my roots, the place where I grew up, and not seeing so many different health options here on the north side of town was like, hey we really have to need to start pushing this thing and getting it on the next level," said Babineaux-Zeno.
This market was started by local farmers from Acadiana at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Founders Kimberly Culotta, Kevin Ardoin, and Nicole Johnson wanted an affordable and educational community garden to benefit the residents of Fightingville.
"Growing your own food and harvesting your own rainwater, and it doesn't have to be expensive. A lot of time, lower-income people may not be aware of the power they have," said Culotta. "To actually feed themselves and you don't have to go to the store to buy expensive products," Culotta added.
Plant Palooza is where residents can come and receive starter garden kits, including free plants, seeds, and workshops where you can learn to have a green thumb and be sustainable.
Kevin Ardoin hopes to see more fresh markets around the community, and with the availability of unused or abandoned lot spaces, he can see it happening in the future.
"I don't see abandoned lots, I see gardens everywhere I look," said Ardoin.
At Fightinville Fresh Market, you can also drop off unwanted glassware for recycling. The market is open every Tuesday from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. at West Simcoe Street.
The event will take place throughout the month of March.