Skateboarding Lessons Used to Get Kids on Board with Fresh Produce

By Jeanmarie Evelly on June 29, 2012 3:50pm 

Oscar Vasquez, 6, took part in a free skateboarding lesson at the Mount Eden Farmers Market on June 28, 2012. Nonprofit group Harvest Home hosted the lesson as a way to draw more young people to sources of fresh food.
Oscar Vasquez, 6, took part in a free skateboarding lesson at the Mount Eden Farmers Market on June 28, 2012. Nonprofit group Harvest Home hosted the lesson as a way to draw more young people to sources of fresh food.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

MOUNT EDEN — Youngsters in the Bronx were treated to free skateboarding lessons Thursday afternoon in an unlikely spot: the local farmers market.

Harvest Home Farmers Markets, a nonprofit that hosts fruit and vegetable markets in low-income neighborhoods, has partnered with a local skateboard manufacturer to offer a free "Skate Clinic," in Mount Eden, at the corner of Mount Eden and Morris Avenues.

The group hopes the lessons will serve as a way for more young people to connect with the fresh produce that's available in their communities.

"We're trying to make it interesting, cool and hip to come the markets," said Savona Bailey-McClain, who works for Harvest Home. Thursday's Skate Clinic was the first the organization has held so far this summer.

The lessons are a prelude to another event Harvest Home has planned in July, when they'll launch a Harvest Home Bronx Bike App that allow residents to use their mobile devices to access a map of Harvest Home's nine Bronx food market locations and the best route to them via local bike paths, skate parks and pedestrian walkways.

The idea, Bailey-McClain said, is to not only encourage people to go to the markets for healthy food, but to encourage them to get there the healthy way--by foot, whatever mode they choose.

"You can walk there, bike there, or skate there," she said.

On Thursday afternoon, about a dozen or so kids took part in a lesson from Bert Correa, owner of Bronx-based Indigenous Skateboards, a board manufacturer that's been operating for seven years. The company opened up a skate shop in Throgs Neck in 2010, and hosts the annual "Battle for the Bronx," a popular skate competition.

Skateboarding is a draw for city kids, Correa said, because it doesn't require a field or a ton of space.

"In the Bronx, I think the appeal is its availability," he said. "You don't need a ton of expensive equipment."

In front of tented tables filled with greens and radishes, Correa showed the group how to properly balance on a skateboard, push off and make turns. Oscar Vasquez, 6, hopped on a skateboard for the first time and did his best to navigate through a pair of orange traffic cones set up for the lesson.

"It was cool," he said post dismount.

"I never got on top of a skateboard before, this was my first time," said 11-year-old Ashley Fermin, who took part of the lesson before running over to a market table, where Harvest Home workers were handing out free samples of a fresh-made beet, carrot and apple salad.

Correa, who also works as a ranger in Crotona Park, said he sees skateboarding as a healthy outlet for kids, and so was immediately on board with the idea of working with Harvest Home.

"It seemed like a natural partnership," he said. "We had a lot of the same ideas about keeping kids active and out of trouble."

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