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Elmhurst Hospital opens market to sell fruits, veggies

Elmhurst Hospital Center’s new project does not involve medicine or physical therapy, but EHC Executive Director Chris Constantino nevertheless sees it as consistent with its mission.

“Any cardiologist will tell you [fresh fruit and vegetables are] the best way to a healthy diet,” he said.

On Tuesday, in cooperation with the Cornell University Cooperative Extension and Grow NYC, EHC opened its new Greenmarket on 41st Avenue between 80th and 81st streets. The market will be open every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 23 and will sell fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and more from farmers from upstate New York and New Jersey.

“We know that health begins with what we put in our bodies,” said Michael Hurwitz, executive director of Greenmarket.

Greenmarket is a citywide program by Grow NYC that began in 1976 with a stand at Union Square. In the program, local farmers set up stands and sell locally grown produce on the streets for a few days or one day out of the week.

Jeanne Hodesh, publicity coordinator for Greenmarket, said this is the 51st market in the city and the eighth in Queens.

Peter Amato, chairman of the community advisory board for EHC, said the board originally approached Greenmarket about setting up a location in front of the hospital.

“We thought it would be great for the nutritional aspect for the patients,” Amato said.

Hodesh said either EHC or Community Board 4, which was working with the hospital, contacted Greenmarket in the fall.

“They kept saying, ‘We have a great location. We want you to be here,’” Hurwitz said.

City Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and former Councilwoman Helen Sears supported the project and came to the opening of the market.

“This benefits everyone,” said Dromm. He went on to mention the hospital employees, patients and community members who would buy from the market as well as the farmers selling their wares.

Hurwitz said all farmers selling at the market asked to be there, and Greenmarket chose them for what they could specifically offer to the community. A Korean farmer was chosen to service the local Korean population, another was chosen because he knew the area.

Greg Lebak, of Lebak Farms in Chesterfield, N.J., expressed an interest in the site because he sells flowers, which would benefit those visiting patients in the hospitals.

“It was almost like [the location] was made for us,” Lebak said.

In addition to the farmers, Donald Tobias, executive director of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, said instructors at the university will be at the market to do cooking demonstrations and provide nutritional information for residents, introducing them to new types of food and teaching them how to prepare them, as well as other topics like portion control.

“Our instructors are able to do that in a very friendly, very approachable way,” said Tobias.

Lebak, who has been participating in Greenmarkets in New York for 21 years, said he hopes the neighborhood will find out about it and the market will be successful.

“So far so good,” he said of the early customers to the market. “Everybody’s pleased with what they’re seeing.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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