Taking fresh fruits and veggies to 'food deserts'

Carlos Osorio/AP
Peaches & Greens driver Diane Brown helps customers out of her truck in Detroit. Five days a week, the truck slowly winds its way through the streets selling affordable fruits and vegetables.

The environmental community often speaks of "food security," but a couple of recent news items drive home the point that this isn't just a problem in developing countries:

Here in the US, where suburbanites generally have a choice of grocery stores vying for their produce dollars, some inner-city areas have access to few if any full-service supermarkets. And that makes it hard for residents to eat fresh foods such as apples and lettuce instead of junk food from the closest convenience store.

Detroit, for instance, has been called a "food desert" for its lack of  chain stores that carry fresh fruits and vegetables. (An oft-quoted statistic for one neighborhood is 26 liquor stores but only one grocery.) And public transportation options are few for anyone who wants to travel to a neighborhood with more food choices.

One group decided to do something about it this summer.  The nonprofit Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp., which runs its own produce market, Peaches & Greens. It also stocks a truck with edibles ranging from cabbage to corn grown in community gardens and takes them to inner-city residents.

Sorta like a Good Humor truck stocked with tomatoes instead of ice cream bars.

So far, says Lisa Johanon, CDCCDC executive director, the project is working well. “We’ve seen the stereotype that urban communities won’t eat healthy, and we’re seeing that isn’t true." A steady stream of customers is flagging down the truck, which is equipped to accept payment through food assistance cards.

But a group in Washington State has found it more difficult to provide fresh produce to residents without access to any.

According to The Seattle Times:

There may be only one thing harder to do along Delridge Way Southwest than finding fresh produce for sale: giving it away for free.
Such was the case Sunday at a temporary produce stand on the main drag of a Southwest Seattle neighborhood so bereft of grocers that one local resident calls it a "health-food desert." Passers-by waved off offers of peaches, apples and homegrown squash with the quizzical air of people surprised to have free organic bounty thrust upon them.

In a way, it's easy to see why. Two teens hired to man the produce booth for the Delridge Produce Cooperative,  which wants to help residents add fresh foods to their diets, didn't recognize zucchini.

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