With no disrespect to their canned or frozen counterparts, nothing beats fresh fruits and vegetables. But for many low-income Americans, the chance to get vine-ripened tomatoes, freshly picked peaches or bushels of green beans is an out-of-reach luxury. Availability and affordability pose the two greatest barriers.
Foodlink, a member of the Feeding America network of food banks, is changing that with The Curbside Market. For the third summer in a row, low-income residents in Rochester, NY and surrounding communities have access to affordable, garden-fresh delights five days a week from July through September. Initial funding was made available thanks to a grant from the Citizens Bank Growing Communities Initiative. Now the food bank runs the program out of general funding with the ultimate goal of making it sustainable through sales – a goal they are getting closer to achieve.
The Curbside Market is a farmers market on wheels. Strawberries, collard greens and cucumbers all make their way into Rochester neighborhoods via a refrigerated 18-foot van stocked full of locally purchased agricultural products from farms within Foodlink’s ten-county service area. Items are sold to local residents at wholesale prices.
Many people mistakenly believe that low-income individuals don't necessarily want to buy healthy food. This myth was laid to rest in The Curbside Market’s first summer of operation when the mobile farm stand moved 45,000 pounds of produce. Further evidence can be found in the 2014 Hunger in America Study, Feeding America’s comprehensive survey of people seeking food assistance, which reported that 54 percent of client households with children identify fresh fruits and vegetables as food items they would like to receive.
The Curbside Market will visit locations in six counties this summer. Historically, distribution sites have included housing facilities and community centers that serve a food-insecure clientele. Sites have expanded this year to include hospitals and health centers, senior centers, and recreation centers. In another enhancement, nutrition education will be offered to Curbside Market visitors.
Currently, the Feeding America network serves more than 46 million Americans in need. Of the food our network distributes annually, 67 percent is classified as Foods to Encourage – food categories that are accepted as contributing positively to good health – which includes 1 billion pounds of produce.
The Curbside Market is just one way our network is bringing healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables to people in need – accessible, inexpensive and much to the enjoyment of area residents.
*Mitch Gruber is the director of programs and innovation at Foodlink.Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , Food Bank Network , New York , Foodlink, Inc.