Mercado Institute Launches

Though this year has been difficult, not even a global pandemic can stamp out “esperanza.”

Though this year has been difficult, not even a global pandemic can stamp out “esperanza.” While the Mercado Esperanza as we know it is on hold due to COVID restrictions, the community marketplace celebrating local entrepreneurs and cultural pride continues to bring hope and happiness to New Brunswick residents. To fill the gap of in-person events, the NBT team, in partnership with coLAB Arts and Elijah’s Promise, developed the Mercado Institute, a project of Mercado Esperanza, aimed at maintaining the spirit of the Mercado Esperanza and its focus on culture, food, art, and family.

The Mercado Institute began on October 11 and will run every Sunday through December 20 for registered participants. This pilot program will continue Mercado Esperanza’s mission to foster food entrepreneurship and creativity in the Esperanza Neighborhood.

The arts distribution and workshop program provides participating students with weekly deliveries of art supplies and online live tutorials on how to create projects that speak to the energy, diversity, challenges, and hopes of the community. The impact of this creative engagement is invaluable in helping the student community combat feelings of isolation by maintaining relationships and furthering emotional development.

Not only is the Mercado Institute fostering mental wellness and creativity for students, but it is also ensuring food security for their families by providing the delicious, handmade food that is a feature of the Mercado Esperanza. Participating families receive a weekly family meal on Sunday afternoons provided by participating Mercado Esperanza vendors. Under the supervision of Elijah’s Promise kitchen supervisor Griselda Lopez, Mercado vendor Maria Bravo, is preparing the first two weeks of meals. More vendors will be announced as scheduling is determined. Follow New Brunswick Tomorrow, coLAB arts, and Elijah’s Promise for these announcements and more.

The initial community response for this program has been remarkable, with 60 students participating in the art workshop and over 160 meals being delivered to registered families -- in fact, enrollment reached capacity within two weeks. However, if space becomes available, you can fill out the waitlist registration on the Mercado Institute website.

To learn more about the program visit:

November 5, 2020

Contributors to this post

Below are some additional team members who contributed to this blog post:

Diana is a long-time resident of New Brunswick. She has lived for most of her life in New Brunswick, attending most of New Brunswick Public Schools. She has the personal connection that brings her back to the community and work under the Esperanza Neighborhood Project to provide programmatic support to first time homeownership activities, tenant rights activities, entrepreneur and small business support, and support to the Esperanza Neighborhood Project as needed.

She feels honored to work at NBT since January 2019 and intends to continue supporting the organizations mission of Moving People Forward.