Farmers markets and local food vendors need to take necessary precautions and safety measures to ensure the health of farmers, vendors and customers.
Farmers markets and direct-sale farmer and grower operations are vital to communities and small businesses across North Dakota.
That’s especially the case because the COVID-19 pandemic is causing meat shortages and higher prices at some grocery stores, according to North Dakota State University Extension community health and nutrition specialist Jan Stankiewicz. Local foods also are a great opportunity for economic activity, where food dollars directly impact the local economy.
“However, farmers markets and local food vendors need to take necessary precautions and safety measures to ensure the health of farmers, vendors, customers and the public,” she says.
Here are some ways farmers markets and direct-sale operations can keep their customers and themselves safe:
• Provide sufficient handwashing stations and/or sanitizer for the public and vendors.
• Sanitize between customers and frequently.
• Mark customer waiting lines to indicate physical distances between customers and between vendors and customers.
• Increase the distance between vendors and/or limit the crowd size at markets. Have market staff/volunteers count customers. When crowds are larger than 50 people, start a one-in, one-out system.
• Consider prioritizing food/farm vendors for the 2020 season.
• Do not allow sampling or self-service of ready-to-eat food.
• Reduce contact time and the time spent at vendor booths by offering pre-bagged items or roping off booths so that customers are not spending unnecessary time at booths.
• Do not place tables and chairs at markets because these encourage people to gather without adequate distancing.
• Discontinue/limit events and activities that draw people together.
• Post signage to direct market operations and traffic flow, including designated entrances and exits.
• Post signage and notices reminding vendors and customers to stay at home if they feel ill.
• Package and offer ready-to-eat food for take-home only.
• Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for face masks (https://tinyurl.com/ClothFaceCoverings-CDC) for the public and those handling foods for sale.
• Consider delivery/pickup/pre-orders/drivethrough operations for eligible vendors.
• Sanitize hands between transactions and/or handle money separately.
Here are recommendations for farmers market customers:
• Do not visit the market if feeling ill or experiencing any symptoms of an infectious disease.
• Consider sending only one family member to the market.
• Do not touch your face when in public.
• Cover your face/cough/sneeze.
• Wear a protective mask when in public.
According to federal policy, if a farmers market is an authorized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program retailer, it must continue to accept SNAP benefits.