Penn Street Market aims to Combat Food Insecurity during Pandemic

The mission of the Penn Street Market has always been to provide fresh and healthy food to the downtown Reading community. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the market has had to make the difficult decision to forgo vendors, cooking demonstrations, and live entertainment this year.

Following CDC and PA Department of Agriculture guidelines, the market has been re-designed from the ground up. Shoppers are asked to wear a mask, shop solo, and keep a 6 foot distance from others. The market has also installed barriers to ensure shoppers travel one way in/out, and have set up a hand washing station before entering.

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The Penn Street Market kicked off its season in early June with only two produce vendors, Blue Mountain Academy Farm and Country Lane Poultry and Produce. Now a month later, and with some restrictions lifted, the market has grown to include food trucks and additional vendors.

“People rely on us and we wanted to maintain that access point for fresh foods and vegetables” said Market Manager, Courtney Shober.

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So what’s the same? As in previous years, the Penn Street Market continues to run food incentive programs, such as SNAP, WIC/Senior FMNP, and Berks Farm Bucks to help community members buy fresh food.

“We are excited to have the Food Trust back again. Although they can’t do any demonstrations or sampling, they are able to provide food bucks, and shift it into more of a COVID food relief fund” said Shober. “We still have them give out recipe cards and promote healthy eating.”

“The future is positive” said Shober. “We can’t have it be as fun without entertainment, so that’s sad, but we’re still fulfilling our mission and vision, just in a new way.” 

New vendors to the market include veggies, fruits, flowers and fresh baked cookies from Half Dozen Cafe & Bakery and Country Lane Poultry & Produce. Rodale Institute is also back to offer local bread from Daily Loaf Bakery in Hamburg, and Haven Farmstead Dairy, from New Tripoli, PA.

In addition, the B.A.R.N. pantry table is now offering locally produced honey, hot sauce, and organic apple cider vinegar.

For those looking for lunch, food trucks Taqueria Comālli and Gourmand are serving up hot ready to eat meals.

Located on the 400 block of Penn street, the market will be open Thursdays June 4th, through September 3rd, 10am to 2pm.

In addition, the Reading Parking Authority is offering free parking for shoppers at the 4th and Cherry Garage and at the metered, on-street parking in the 400 block of Penn Street. Just make sure to grab a parking garage voucher before heading back to your car.

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