Sunny skies and warm weather signals the opening of the farmers market season. Returning to downtown Reading, the Penn Street Market is back Thursday mornings, just with it a few changes.

The mission of the Penn Street Market has always been to provide fresh and healthy food to the downtown Reading community. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the market has had to make the difficult decision to forgo food trucks, vendors, cooking demonstrations, and live entertainment.

Following CDC and PA Department of Agriculture guidelines, the market has been re-designed from the ground up. Shoppers are asked to wear a mask, shop solo, and keep a 6 foot distance from others. The market has also installed barriers to ensure shoppers travel one way in/out, and have set up a hand washing station before entering.

To kick off the season, Penn Street Market opened today with two produce vendors, Blue Mountain Academy Farm and Country Lane Poultry and Produce.

“People rely on us and we wanted to maintain that access point for fresh foods and vegetables” said Market Manager, Courtney Shober.

The market will not always be this small, Shober believes they will be able to invite restaurants and food trucks back later in the season.

New signage, in English and Spanish, tell shoppers to practice social distancing.

So what’s the same? As in previous years, the Penn Street Market continues to run food incentive programs, such as SNAP, WIC/Senior FMNP, and Berks Farm Bucks to help community members buy fresh food.

“We are excited to have the Food Trust back again. Although they can’t do any demonstrations or sampling, they are able to provide food bucks, and shift it into more of a COVID food relief fund” said Shober. “We still have them give out recipe cards and promote healthy eating.”

“The future is positive” said Shober. “We can’t have it be as fun without entertainment, so that’s sad, but we’re still fulfilling our mission and vision, just in a new way.” 

Now located on the 400 block of Penn street, the market will be open Thursdays June 4th, through September 3rd, 10am to 2pm.

In addition, the Reading Parking Authority is offering free parking for shoppers at the 4th and Cherry Garage and at the metered, on-street parking in the 400 block of Penn Street. Just make sure to grab a parking garage voucher before heading back to your car.