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Davis Night Market: Reducing Food Waste & Stigma

The Davis Night Market’s Work to Nourish Neighbors

By: Isabella Holmes for The Dirt

Central Park is the heart of Davis, bustling most days with picnics, first dates, and Farmers Market shoppers. As night falls, this energy continues with The Davis Night Market, a volunteer-run food redistribution program. 

The Davis Night Market recovers surplus food from local restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores that would otherwise be wasted, and distributes it for free.

Even in brisk, often rainy evenings of Davis winter, Night Market volunteers are there—delivering and serving everything from carrots to cake, warmly greeting familiar faces and newcomers alike.

The work they do is two-fold: reducing food insecurity and the stigma associated with it.

“Due to stigma, a lot of people who need food are often too embarrassed to get it,” Community Coordinator and Monday Night Captain Max Morgan told The Dirt. “We maintain a relaxed, friendly style to create an atmosphere where anyone feels comfortable coming and getting food.”

Each weeknight, a continuous flow of volunteers distribute an array of baked goods, produce, and more. Meanwhile, more volunteers swing by local businesses at closing, and deliver what’s leftover to the market. People line up to select what they want, and groups linger to chat and catch up with friends. It’s clear that people here take the time to get to know each other, which creates a warm environment despite the night chill. 

The Night Market has a “No Questions Asked” policy, and encourages anyone and everyone to come by and grab some food. 

“We want people to come, no matter what, we want this to be a space for everyone,” Morgan said.

The history of The Night Market reflects these values. The Night Market began in the spring of 2019 as a gathering place as much as a place of food distribution. During COVID, it provided a safe, outdoor space where people could access free food.

Food insecurity in Davis remains severe. In 2020, the food insecurity rate in Yolo County was 10.6%, according to Empower Yolo, and in 2023 the Yolo Food Bank reports UCD students are food insecure at a rate of 44%.

While it’s not a role they wish was needed, Morgan said The Night Market is how many people afford to live.

Beyond food, The Night Market is a community hub where relationships are built. Its diverse attendees and range of socioeconomic backgrounds create a unique environment where connections flourish. 

“It’s my favorite community that I’ve ever been a part of,” Felix Moses, a Community Coordinator and volunteer, said.

“I’ve been able to encounter a real cross-section of Davis that is very diverse, in all senses of the word,” Moses told The Dirt. “I feel so much more enmeshed in the fabric of the city.”

The Night Market is entirely volunteer run, and their youngest volunteer is Sierra. She started volunteering at the age of nine and volunteers with her family once a week. 

Sierra brings a different stuffed animal each week, a tradition shared by some of the other volunteers.

“We compared ginormous stuffed animals last week,” Sierra told The Dirt. On Valentine’s Day she brought Coconut, a dog with “hugs and squishes” written on it.

The Davis Night Market is open Monday through Friday, 9p—11p, and is located at Central Park in Davis, at 4th and C Street.

Be Part of the Mission!

One of the best ways you can help The Night Market is by showing up and being part of the community.

New volunteers, businesses wishing to donate food, and people wishing to give a donation via PayPal may use: davis@night-market.org to learn more.

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