University of Georgia juniors Abraham Lebos and Reese MacMillan were looking for ways to give back to the community without putting anyone at risk for COVID-19. This led them to create an organization called Farmers Market Friends.
Lebos and MacMillan launched Farmers Market Friends in August with the goal of supporting the Athens Farmers Market and connecting UGA students and Athens residents with locally grown produce.
MacMillan and Lebos, who are pre-med students, said the inspiration for this organization came from another program called the Food As Real Medicine Rx Program. This program helps people in Athens who are identified as food insecure or have diet-related illnesses receive a prescription from their doctor for nutritious food from the farmers market that can be filled at no cost.
“We just wanted to create a connection between the pre-med community at UGA and find out ways that they could support that initiative,” said Lebos, who is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and psychology.
Through their search for ways to help the Athens community, MacMillan and Lebos were led to UGA Dining Services, where they then applied for a Campus Sustainability Grant. Through this grant, the pair has obtained $5,000 to go toward their goal of bringing UGA and the Athens Farmers Market community together.
With this money, MacMillan and Lebos plan to bring farmers markets to the Zell B. Miller Learning Center lawn. They are working with UGA Dining Services to allow students to use Paw Points to purchase the fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets.
“We just really want to increase student engagement with local food systems and get the message out there that fresh produce is available,” said MacMillan, a biochemistry and molecular biology major.
MacMillan and Lebos also plan to donate all of their proceeds from the campus farmers market to the FARM RX Program to support their initiative.
Farmers Market Friends also sends volunteers to the Athens Farmers Market. MacMillan said that through volunteering, he has gained a new perspective on the importance of access to fresh food.
“It's been great to find a way to support the Athens community in a way that we feel is really beneficial and is a really safe way of providing our services as able bodied young people to make what we think is a real and positive impact on Athens,” Lebos said. “It is certainly our responsibility to help Athens flourish, since it hosts us so graciously as students.”
Anna Rogers, the faculty advisor for Farmers Market Friends and a sociology lecturer at UGA, said she has enjoyed watching students passion for and inclusivity toward the Athens community.
“It just made me really happy to see some good in the world, you know, at a time when things can be pretty negative in other places in society right now," Rogers said.