Source: Londa Nwadike, 816-482-5860
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Shopping at farmers markets is a great way to get healthy fruits, vegetables and other foods while supporting local farmers, says Londa Nwadike, University of Missouri Extension food safety specialist. Nwadike, who has a joint extension appointment with MU and Kansas State University, offers some guidelines for safe shopping at farmers markets even in the midst of COVID-19:
Be prepared. Call the market or check its website or social media pages to see which vendors and items will be available. Give yourself extra time. Shopping might take longer with extra safety measures in place, as many Missouri farmers markets have updated their procedures to provide extra safety to customers and vendors. Make a list so you can efficiently find the items you need.
If you’re running multiple errands, make the market your last stop to minimize the amount of time perishable foods sit in the car.
Before entering the market, remind yourself to avoid touching your face and cellphone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask or other cloth face covering when in places where social distancing can be difficult. Make sure to use a designated entry point when going in. The farmers market may have established separate entrances and exits to avoid bottlenecks of people coming and going.
Choose items with your eyes, not your hands, Nwadike says. Let vendors handle the products you select. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people as much as possible.
“You want to avoid standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other customers while examining items. Be patient and courteous while people ahead of you complete their purchases,” Nwadike says.
Avoid using cash when possible. Many vendors and markets accept debit, credit and EBT/SNAP cards.
Make use of handwashing stations or hand sanitizer. CDC recommends handwashing with soap and water, but if handwashing is not available, hand sanitizer can also be used.
For now, resist the temptation to socialize while shopping. “Farmers markets are normally a place to enjoy the atmosphere and visit with the vendors and other friends,” Nwadike says. “But right now, farmers markets are most importantly a source of food and a way to support local farmers.” Consider sending just one household member to the market at this time.
Wash all produce before eating. “Even though there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has been transmitted through food or food packaging, it is always important to use good food safety practices, which will help control foodborne illness as well as COVID-19,” she says. That means washing the whole produce, even if you don’t eat the peel. Wash items such as cantaloupe and potatoes with a produce brush.
Nwadike says commercial produce washes have not been shown to be more effective than water from the kitchen faucet. “All the research shows that clean, running water is the best way for consumers to wash produce,” she said.
Safety recommendations change regularly. For the most current information on the spread of COVID-19 and the government’s response, consumers should contact their local or state health department or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov). MU Extension also has a number of resources related to COVID-19 at extension2.missouri.edu/covid-19-resources-public.