By: Jason Carrillo (MCA Fellow)
Utah’s State Fair is an iconic event that annually brings our statewide community together to celebrate the successes of our state and its thriving population. Diverse food options and community engagement are common sights to see during the event, making the Utah Sate Fairpark venue filled with beautiful moments and beloved memories. However, for most of the year the Fairpark Event Center sits unused despite the bustling growth, transit, and community surrounding it. Most of this growth has come from diverse, multicultural communities who have been essential to the ongoing thriving development of our state. Many local stakeholders and community members have noticed this, and hope to transform the Fairpark Event Center into a living, breathing destination for Salt Lake residents.
Launching on May 28th, the International Market is the response to all this development. Embracing the growing diversity of Salt Lake County, the Market seeks to feature ethnically-diverse foods, celebrate Utah’s multiculturalism, and create a much needed community gathering space on Salt Lake City’s westside. The International Market plans to do this by giving small businesses a place to sell their products and streamline opportunities for migrant and refugee entrepreneurs to set up shop. The Market’s location next to a Utah Transit Authority TRAX station and proximity to downtown will make it a publicly accessible and affordable destination for locals and visitors alike, giving all frequenters the option to become connected to diverse cultures, customs, and beliefs.
The International Market will also address a major issue for locals: the food desert that is Salt Lake City’s westside.
A food desert is an area where a community lacks convenient options for affordable and healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Food deserts are disproportionately found in lower-income multicultural neighborhoods, and this is an issue that has only been aggravated with the gentrification that has come with Utah’s skyrocketing growth. Salt Lake City’s westside neighborhoods of Rose Park, Ballpark, Poplar Grove, and Glendale have seen many of their diverse local businesses replaced by high end developments like apartments and townhomes. And while more and denser homes are needed in a state facing a housing shortage, loss of accessibility to healthy, affordable, and cultural foods force westside residents to travel farther and spend more.
Such is the case with Tejeda’s Market, a Mexican supermarket in Glendale that is set to be replaced by townhomes. Tejeda’s is at the heart of the neighborhood and has served as an essential resource for culturally affordable foods for a culturally diverse neighborhood. Tejeda’s owner chose to sell their property, but nonetheless its closure will impact residents’ options.
Usually, unhealthy fast-food restaurants are more accessible than produce-rich markets in food deserts, and that’s the case in most of the city’s westside neighborhoods. Multicultural communities are also more likely to work laborious industry or service based jobs, where hours are much less consistent and shifts can end late at night. This can leave little time to both shop and cook, and without nearby supermarkets, the only accessible option is fast food. Prolonged fast food consumption can lower life expectancy, making access to healthy food very important. However, artificially high real-estate prices caused by exclusionary zoning laws limit the opportunities for neighborhood-level businesses, further limiting access to culturally-aware and healthier foods.
With all this in mind, it’s clear why the International Market’s launch is so significant. With guidance from many local cultural organizations, it addresses the food insecurity that hundreds face in Salt Lake City’s westside by creating a consistent space where our communities will access not only culturally significant foods, but other goods and entertainment— giving many entrepreneurs a launching pad for their businesses. The State Fair and Fairpark Event Center team hopes to make the International Market a year-round permanent destination, but until then it will host monthly market events.
For more information on vendors, entertainment, and times visit their website here!