Second Saturday food celebration grows downtown

cmyers@newsobserver.comJune 18, 2014 

It’s common knowledge that Raleigh loves its First Fridays. But these days, Erin White of Community Food Lab is hoping to make the city just as enthusiastic about another day: the second Saturday of the month.

“We want to do for food what First Friday did for art,” White says.

Last Saturday, armed with several whiteboards and a straw hat, White led a group of approximately thirty-five people on a walking tour of the area of downtown beginning to be known as the Raleigh Food Corridor.

The hat was for protection against the hot late morning sun. The whiteboards were a tool for engaging the group, an aspect of the Second Saturday efforts that White says is key to its success. Although Community Food Lab and the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation have taken leadership roles in the Second Saturday initiative, White says the goal is an “open-source approach where anybody with a good idea can just do it.”

The whiteboards were an apt illustration of this goal. Throughout the walk, which began in Moore Square and wove through downtown, participants were encouraged to write down ideas on the whiteboards, take photos of themselves holding the boards and post them to Instagram.

“Rooftop garden” was scribbled on one board. “Grow food here!” was accompanied by arrows on another.

“I want you guys to look around and think, ‘What could be here?’” White told the group.

The walk was a mobile version of the Gathering for Good series sponsored by the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation. The aim is to gather members of the community together to address local issues.

“A lot of times people just need someone to open the door for them,” Nation Hahn, a member of the foundation’s Board of Directors, said. “We see this as a way to activate this community.”

Although individual businesses and organizations have celebrated “Second Saturday” before, this month marked the beginning of a movement to tie the events together. Will Jeffers of Stanbury restaurant is described by many as the man who started it all. Jeffers was behind the Stanbury & Escazu Pop-Up Market back in May, which he said an answer to the lack of farmer’s markets in the area.

“This month’s [Second Saturday] is just kind of snowballing,” he said.

Although Jeffers said the amount of people who visited June’s pop-up market was about the same as May’s, he pointed out that the Second Saturday movement as a whole was gaining widespread interest.

Community Food Lab and the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation created a website and printed out maps and brochures to get the word out to the public about the various happenings.

The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle held a volunteer event to build a shade structure for its community garden. Cindy Sink, Director of Communications, said the organization’s partnership with the Second Saturday events was natural.

“It’s just one more service opportunity,” she explained. “But we feel like we have a very large stake in anything that goes along with urban agriculture.”

Downtown resident Jenny Harper, along with partner Lauren DeSimone, worked hard Saturday morning to install a new garden plot on the corner of Cabarrus St. and Person St. The duo hopes the spot, which was a stop on White’s walking tour, will help bring the neighborhood together.

Centro restaurant hosted a DIY Salsa Station using ingredients from their rooftop garden. Members of the Brentwood Boys and Girls Club staffed the station, working next to rising 8th graders from Exploris Middle School who were decorating planters made from recycled containers.

Marbles Kids Museum held one of its weekend Garden Gourmet events, which let children sample recipes made from fresh ingredients. Rebus Works art gallery and framing shop added a raffle to benefit the nonprofit Toxic Free NC to its usual Saturday Market lineup. Joule Coffee offered a place for participants to discuss the day and plan for next month.

Danielle Centeno, an owner of Escazu, noted that the Second Saturday events attracted many who are already active in the local urban agriculture scene.

“Most of them are friends of ours, so it kind of feels like family,” she said.

But White remains optimistic that Second Saturday can be an effective way to engage the wider community. He pointed to some of those taking part in the walking tour who didn’t know much about it before arriving in Moore Square Saturday morning.

Carleen Jamison, who is active in the Martin St. community garden, heard about the event on Facebook. She brought her son, Chance, to find out more.

“We wanted to know what’s going on,” Jamison said. “We need to know about our neighborhood.”

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