Pictured Above: The market participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Incentives.
Courtesy of Downtown St. Pete
By Olivia Sawdy
Located at the heart of St. Petersburg, the Saturday Morning Market gathers almost every week.
At the market, you can find anything from body care and clothing to local produce and pet food.
SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families, so they can purchase healthy food and move toward self-sufficiency.
The market provides a “match” for Florida grown fruits and veggies. This means that for every SNAP dollar spent at the market, individuals can receive a matching financial incentive. For example, $50 from the EBT card gives individuals $100 to spend at the market, which effectively doubles their purchase.
This makes it incredibly affordable for those who use EBT to purchase the healthy and nutritious foods they need.
Residents in the Midtown and Gulfport areas of St. Petersburg have a hard time finding healthy foods as the only grocery store in that area closed years ago.
The Saturday Morning Market offers a solution by consistently housing 171 vendors, 84 of which sell food, including fresh produce.
Many of the options for food are based on people making and selling their own recipes, and many of the food vendors are local farmers who sell their local produce and advertise their farms for people to visit and support.
“For the last 11 years, we have maintained and harvested blueberries from about 40,000 plants,” said the owners at Blues Berry Farm in Plant City. “When blueberry season is among us, which is right around the corner, having so many plants helps us maintain and provide an incredible amount of fruit that can be bought when we are at the market or on sight at our farm.”
The Blues Berry Farm also has a U-pick season where guests can go to their farm and pick their own blueberries.
The Dancing Goat is another vendor at the Saturday Morning Market.
“Our mission is to provide the most high quality, delicious, and healthy products while showing the individual love and care that each animal deserves,” Pam Lunn, owner of The Dancing Goat, said. “Quality is paramount, and we personally stand behind our products.”
The farmers are all very proud of their products and love attending the Saturday Morning Market. It is a great way for them to share everything that they have and gain loyal customers that often also buy from their farms, not just from the market.
“I always enjoy going to the Saturday Morning Market,” Alex Simpson, a customer at the market, said. “Every time I go, I find food and other fun things at such an affordable price that it makes me really want to keep going back.”
Many people who attended the market for the first time never knew how affordable it truly was. It was also very convenient for them to have local produce available. They knew it was coming from a good place and wanted to support the local sellers.
With the pandemic still present, the market has come up with some rules that market goers and vendors have to follow.
Free masks are provided and must be worn by everyone during market hours. Customers who choose not to wear a mask will be asked to leave. There is also controlled entry and only three spots in which guests can enter the market.
Even though the market offers an array of different foods and drinks, eating is not permitted on the premises. Customers can eat outside of the market footprint and vendors are required to package their food in “to-go” containers. Drinking is allowed inside the market. Your drink must be in your hand and your mask must be on and visible to others.
The market’s mission is “to be the ‘heart’ of St. Petersburg- the place, more than anywhere else, that people feel a strong sense of joyful connectedness and creative community.”
Many customers have shared that they think the market is the most significant improvement to the quality of life ever in St. Petersburg.
Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown St. Petersburg, locals and people from out of town can attend the market.
Since the pandemic, the Saturday Morning Market has adopted an online model which allows customers to order food from vendors online and pick it up on Saturday morning. This helps avoid overcrowding and is a nice alternative for those who love to support the vendors at the market and want to be safe.
Customers and vendors can enjoy live music while attending. The market is always striving to give everyone an extraordinary social experience.
“Going to the market is always a good time for me. I love talking with vendors and every time I come, I find something new that I just love,” Simpson said.
With so many different vendors attending the market, there is something there for everyone.