Mobile market brings healthy food to communities

June 10, 2011 (CHICAGO)

While some neighbors wait for a grocery store to move in, they no longer have to wait to gain access to many healthy foods. A new, mobile produce market will soon move through their neighborhoods -- helping residents to eat green.

Food Desert Action's donated CTA bus was once equipped to carry riders all across town. Now, its Mobile Produce Market carries fresh produce and makes its rounds through communities that lack access to healthy food.

"We have organic at affordable prices, local sustainable at affordable prices and we have some conventional. So we have multiple sources for our produce, but it's all high-quality," Sheelah Muhammad said.

Sheelah Muhammad is part of a grassroots organization called Food Desert Action. The Mobile Produce Market is their way of supplying an urgent demand.

"We were looking at the public health map with diabetes, hypertension, stroke all those things that are diet-related and it directly overlayed with the map of food deserts and we wanted to do something about it," Muhammad said.

The recycled bus may seem a strange site, but shoppers say it's a welcome addition to their community.

"They have to get used to it just like anything else and it's convenient. That's for sure," Gloria Street said.

"I think it's nice. It's good to have fresh vegetables and sometimes we can't find them.... We don't have any stores right around here," Mae Shelton said.

The bus can be seen parked outside Bethel New Life's West Side senior home. Operators hail this venture as a quick fix for a long-term problem.

"Bethel has been involved in trying to bring healthy foods to the West Side for some time. We've been working with some grocery store partners and trying to do that. Fresh Moves came with a unique idea that's very innovative that allows us to bring those types of produce to this community without having to wait for bringing a grocery store here," Lori Vallelunga said, President and CEO of Bethel New Life.

The fresh moves produce market will spend Wednesdays in the North Lawndale community and Thursdays in the Austin community. Eventually, organizers would like to include some south side stops as well. To see a complete schedule or find out how to support the effort, check out their website, .

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