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Farmer's Market draws huge crowd
Hundreds of persons turned out for the debut of the Ceres Farmer's Market on Wednesday at Whitmore Park in downtown Ceres.

Many who attended were members of the Latino community drawn by free health screenings. Nurses checked teeth, vision, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and set up mammogram appointments.

The Farmer's Market will be held every Wednesday afternoon with special events the first Wednesday of every month. The Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children and the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program decided to start the program to open up the accessibility of healthy produce to low-income Ceres families. The Partnership heard concerns from parents that they couldn't find fresh fruits and vegetables and with childhood obesity being a concern in Ceres.

According to Michelle Mineni, who helped organize the 35 produce vendors on hand for the event, said the market will be accepting EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfers cards, which is the new form of food stamps. Those with cards can have their EBT cards swiped for specific amounts and be given wooden dollar tokens that may be used as cash for fruits and vegetables at the fair. At the end of the day the vendor takes the wooden tokens and exchanges them for dollars, said Mineni.

"Pricewise it's a better deal buying produce here at the market," said Mineni.

The market will also become certified by the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, she added.

Edith's Gourmet Baking Company had a booth as well as some arts and crafts vendors. Others sold house plants.

Lourdes Perez of the Ceres Partnership said the turn-out was a smashing success. The event was advertised in local newspapers and through 30,000 flyers distributed through Ceres schools and at local Catholic churches.

"The screenings were big," said Perez. "We need to have more of that in our community. The veggies and plants were selling well."

By 2:15 p.m. Golden Valley Health Center health educator Mayra Campos had checked the blood pressure of about 50 people. She said she found many with high blood pressure, a common occurrence among the Latino community. She said the Mexican lifestyle often includes an unhealth balance of fatty foods and that healthier foods are often fried, making them unhealthy.

"A lot of Hispanics think that work is exercise and it's not. I tell them that work is not exercise and that they need to get their heart pumping faster."

Daniel Lucky, a nurse who works with the Ceres Department of Public Safety, was pricking fingers and measuring cholesterol levels. Few people fortunately had numbers than 200.

Those who walked the park checked out 57 informational booths set up a number of organizations, including the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, the city of Ceres, Community Hospice and Anthem health insurance.

Plans are to open the market from noon to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays at Whitmore Park, which is bounded by North and Third streets and El Camino Avenue.