Lewis Fellow assisting Rialto Farmers Market in its decade-long mission to promote better nutrition

Photo City of Rialto:   Diana Cervantes, a Lewis Health Fellow and UC Riverside graduate student, is at the Rialto Farmers Market each week promoting healthy nutrition.

Now in its 10th year, the Rialto Farmer’s Market is committed to making sure that residents of this city of more than 100,000 have access to fresh, healthy food options every week – regardless of the season, the weather or any challenges that might stand in the way.

“We stayed open throughout the pandemic, even if it was just a few vendors,” said City Clerk Barbara McGee, who has kept vigil over the Wednesday market since its launch.

With the support of programs such as Market Match – a state funded healthy food incentive initiative – and the Randall Lewis Health & Policy Fellowship, the Farmer’s Market is a shining example of healthy communities programming making a difference at the local level. By increasing access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other nutritious food options, Rialto is providing residents at all income levels the opportunity to improve their health outcomes and better their lives.

Diana Cervantes, a Lewis Health Fellow and UC Riverside graduate student, understands how important that is.

“I can relate, having grown up in San Bernardino, first generation, knowing how difficult it can be to afford healthy food,” says Cervantes, who, as part of her fellowship, is assisting McGee in helping residents get the most out of their dollars when they shop at the market.

Through Market Match, income-qualified residents can receive $10 if they spend at least $15. That has become even more important as inflation has driven food costs up.

“They can come out here every single week,” Cervantes says. “And the quality of the food they get here is so much more than they can get elsewhere.”

Cervantes, who is bilingual, also assists in eliminating any language barriers that market shoppers might have. The experience has reinforced Cervantes’ desire to pursue a career that helps others, though she remains open to what that might look like.

“I want to make a difference, and I love how this program is doing that every week,” she says.

In the meantime, the Rialto Farmer’s Market continues to make a difference. Research has shown that a healthy diet reduces chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. “We’re proud to be able to offer this to our residents. This is our 10th year, and we look forward to making this available for many more to come,” says McGee.