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Cost-free farmers market often helps those ineligible for other resources

Andrea's No Cost Farmers Market often helps those who may not qualify for aid such as SNAP benefits. Others turn to the market where no questions are asked for food

DENVER, Colorado — One community leader felt the need to help people that she felt were left in the 'gray area' - those that do not qualify for SNAP benefits but still cannot afford a full grocery bill. 

Andrea Loudd started Andrea's No Cost Farmers Market off of 8th and Vrain in Denver's Villa Park neighborhood. Every other Tuesday free food is offered to anyone who comes from between 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.. 

Loudd started the market this summer once she started talking to people in the community that described the struggle of not being eligible for SNAP benefits. She would often hear stories of people that didn't qualify because they made $2, $5 or $17. 

"I know the hardest part for someone to find or be able to get is fresh produce," said Loudd. "That was my motivation, to help the people which I say, I say they are in this gray area. So that was my motivation for getting it started after listening to a single mother of four who was unable to get SNAP based on $17 over the income allotment." 

She continued to hear stories from people that didn't qualify based on $100 or less. It prompted her to help people and as a result, she has continued to help countless others. 

"It means a lot. I’m a single mother myself. I know the struggle. I love my community wherever I live. So I am fighting for [my] community," said Loudd. "I am fighting for voices that are never heard. That makes me feel good. That makes me feel worth. Every morning when I wake up, I have worth. I have purpose." 

Since starting the market this summer, Andrea's No Cost Farmers Market is serving about 100 families. 

"We have become a oasis in the middle of a food desert," said Loudd. 

The market has been open on Tuesday's throughout the summer, although sometimes the market takes a week off. 

"With the cost of food and so many people homeless and on food stamps, there are some of us like me. I don’t make enough to live on but I make too much to get food stamps," said Villa Park resident Peggy Davis. 

Davis describes as being one of the many caught in the 'gray area,' where she often sacrifices what she would like to buy at the grocery store because she cannot rely on additional resources. 

"It means I get fruits and vegetables, which I may not get when I go to the store," said Davis. 

The food supplied at the market comes from community partners including Denver Food Rescue, Southwest Food Coalition, Revision and others. 

The Colorado Department of Human Services is also supportive of Andrea's efforts. 

"I feel like it really just creates a lot of connectivity with the community that we are serving and a lot of the community that we are engaging with. I think it's one of the things that I do look forward to," said Carolina Ramirez, Food Access Administrator with DHS, who often helps at Andrea's market. 

"Ultimately, I think we are here to serve the community. So that's what I really enjoy, I like connecting with Andrea and community members and seeing the joy that it brings too," said Ramirez. 

Andrea's next market will be held on August 23 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.. It will also be her last one of the season, so it will include a block party with free ice cream and other special items. 

Because of the success the market has seen this year, Andrea expects to bring it back next summer. 

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