Last night marked the end of a fun tradition my boyfriend and I started this summer – sharing mouthwatering food truck finds, listening to great local music, bobbing and weaving through massive crowds, trying absurd new ice cream flavors (and I mean that in the most delicious way possible) and eating more desserts than any human should attempt in one sitting, then collapsing on a street curb in a food-induced coma to watch the rest of the excitement unfold – AKA the Night Market.
For those of you who may have missed the memo about “Philadelphia’s favorite street food festival” (and I highly recommend you check it out next summer if that’s the case), the Night Market is a one-night event held in different neighborhoods throughout the city to showcase local food and drinks. Last night’s market in Chinatown featured over 50 food trucks, local beer, wine, and liquor, and live entertainment, both planned and unplanned. (Looking at you, Philly break-dancers!)
But in my opinion, the coolest part about the Night Market is the organization behind this Philadelphia phenomenon, The Food Trust. The Food Trust has worked tirelessly over the past twenty years to ensure access to healthy and affordable food for everyone. In Philadelphia, where food deserts are depressingly common and even part of our city was named the second hungriest district in the nation in 2010, assuring access to this basic human necessity can be grim work indeed. But rather than merely being a mouthpiece to these depressing statistics or shaming the public into taking action against this atrocity, The Food Trust takes a different approach to engaging the public. As anyone who’s been to Night Market can attest, they make food a celebration – and they make sure that everyone’s in on the party.
To be clear, The Food Trust maintains a core body of work and research that significantly improve the most vulnerable Philadelphians’ prospects of obtaining the basic human right to nutritious and healthy food. But the beauty of the organization is that they complement their expertise in evidence-driven practices in food access and food justice with a fearless sense of adventure when it comes to approaching these issues. The Food Trust’s Executive Director Yael Lehmann is the embodiment of the organization’s duality of relentless hard work and fun:
I think there’s an amazing power in an organization – no matter what their focus is – that gives itself permission to also have fun. Beyond the immediate effects of making your organization a more inviting environment with happier employees, creating this positive energy attracts more and more people who want to be a part of your movement. If the hordes of people at last night’s Chinatown market are any indication, The Food Trust’s fun is contagious.
And from one of the many converts to The Food Trust’s movement – thanks for a great Night Market season.