By Todd Thomas,
Fresh Moves, a mobile food market, has been delivering fresh produce to West Side communities since April 2011, and now they’re poised to expand operations and begin deliveries on the South Side later this month.
Over the past several years there has been an effort by healthy food activists to help improve access to fresh produce in inner-city communities that lie in what’s generally termed food deserts.
Food deserts –– defined as areas with little or no access to the foods needed to maintain a healthy diet –– are often served by an overabundance of fast food restaurants.
One of the most novel approaches to addressing the crisis is that of Fresh Moves. They use a renovated Chicago Transit Authority bus (donated by the CTA for just $1) to transport food to designated locations in the Austin and North Lawndale communities.
“They really believe in what we’re doing,” said sales associate, Chrissy Jones. “Because it saves them a trip to the store and the prices are very affordable – they’ve been very enthusiastic about us.”
The Fresh Moves bus makes a trip once a week to Brunson Elementary School, and the kids there have begun to choose fresh fruit over some of the unhealthy snacks that they’re accustomed to.
“The kids come to the bus with their $1 or $2 ready. They mainly love grapes, and strawberries, and a few buy kiwis, apples, mangos and oranges. They’re really excited and they wait the entire week for us – the kids respond really well,” Jones said.
Sacha McLeod, another sales associate and Caribbean native, also drives the vehicle. He said the food there (Caribbean) is of much higher quality, so he know first-hand the benefits of fresh and organic food.
“I have a problem with chemicals because I grew up in a Trinidad-Tobago where they don’t use chemicals on the food. When I came here the conventional food nearly killed me,” McLeod said.
In addition to selling the produce, Fresh Moves also holds seminars about healthy eating, as well as having cooking demonstrations at schools, churches, and senior citizen homes.
“Our goal is to educate the community on healthy eating and to show them better options than the fast food that we have in our community,” McLeod said.
Seniors have been especially receptive to Fresh Moves because of the convenience. Driving to the suburbs or elsewhere in the city where food choices are better is inconvenient and costly, and taking public transportation is time consuming and limiting, McLeod said.
“You might have to drive 10 or 15 miles to go to Rogers Park or to a Whole Foods. It’s much better if you can get good quality food in your community, and at cheaper prices that at Whole Foods, whose prices can break your back,” he said.
Fresh Moves buys its produce from local farmers when possible, and they sell conventional and some organic produce as well. They also accept LINK, which accounts for about 30 percent of its sales.
“We have been successful, but in any ways we can improve – we need more funding and donations,” said McLeod. “The community loves us and they want more from us, but there’s only so much we can do with limited resources.”