GFS student Kelly Zhang

Kelly Zhang, a senior at Germantown Friends School, wanted to spend her summer helping the community while exploring issues in public health -a field she may want to pursue in college and as a future career. Her interest in food access and insecurity led her to an internship with The Food Trust and a lasting appreciation for the impact of nutrition on the health of underserved communities.

During her internship, Zhang had the opportunity to help launch a farmer’s market at Market Square Park, a previously underutilized neighborhood park and public space in Germantown. The Germantown and School House Farmers Market — a new venue to get delicious and fresh food locally -was developed in collaboration with Germantown United CDC and Weavers Way Co-op. It offers food from Ashbell’s Smokehouse Deli, Zookie’s Produce, and Weavers Way, plus community resources, music and entertainment by Germantown United CDC, and guest appearances throughout the season by speakers from the many historic gardens and urban farms of Germantown.

In addition to serving on the farmers market team, Zhang also supported outreach initiatives. She attended court hearings and community meetings to advocate for healthier options in schools and programs to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible. She supported youth education programs in both Camden and Philadelphia, including The Food Trust’s PEACH (People Eating and Cooking Healthy) program, which brings nutrition education into more than 150 schools and outside-of-school programs. She also worked on the organization’s Healthy You, Positive Energy (HYPE) campaign, which supports youth councils in 70 middle and high schools that advocate for access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.

One of Zhang’s most memorable activities was volunteering at a senior center in North Philadelphia. She helped coordinate a nearby farmers market, allowing seniors to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables through their Access cards. Zhang helped market and track this program, and enjoyed meeting the residents.

“All of my experiences with The Food Trust opened my eyes to different challenges people face regarding food disparity, from language and financial barriers to lack of stores with healthy options. My experience also showed me how much progress has been made to help remedy the problem,” said Zhang. “Healthy food should not be a privilege.”

“Interns like Zhang are critical to The Food Trust’s ability to make an impact on a neighborhood level,” said Katy Wich, senior associate at The Food Trust. “With our boots on the ground in the communities we serve, we can teach families how to shop smart and cook great food on a budget, then point them to retailers, including our farmers markets,where they can find high quality produce.”

A recent study by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health found that, for the first time in decades, the obesity rates among Philadelphia school children decreased by 5 percent between 2006 and 2010. The work of The Food Trust, and efforts by interested community members and volunteers like Zhang, are making a difference.

There is still time to visit The Food Trust’s Germantown & School House Farmers Market in Market Square Park each Thursday in October from 3-7 p.m.