Former CTA bus to bring produce to South, West side neighborhoods

SHARE Former CTA bus to bring produce to South, West side neighborhoods

Shoppers pick out kale, squash and green peppers on Chicago’s new Fresh Moves mobile grocery store on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. | Jesse Betend/Sun-Times

More fresh produce will be available in some West and South side neighborhoods after a program called Fresh Moves got a boost from a local restaurant.

Fresh Moves, which sells affordable produce out of its mobile produce bus at multiple locations around the city, added a second bus Wednesday. Less food truck and more farm truck, the first bus was converted from a former bookmobile into a rolling grocery store by Milwaukee-based nonprofit Growing Power. Chicago committed to supply fuel for the buses for at least a year.

The new bus is a former Chicago Transit Authority bus, which was bought and rehabbed with a $40,000 donation from the Chicago branch of national salad restaurant chain Sweetgreen.

Sweetgreen, which opened in Chicago in August, announced 100 percent of opening day sales would go to pay for a second produce bus. Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet says the company – which now operates 58 restaurants around the country – partners with a nonprofit in each new area a restaurant opens.

“We’re big believers in access to healthy food in every community,” Jammet said.

The new bus debuted Wednesday outside the Howard Brown Health Center, one of the mobile market’s regular stops. Since the program began last summer, Alicia Williams, outreach manager for Howard Brown, says she buys all of her produce on the Fresh Moves bus.

“I never spend more than $9 in there, and I can easily feed two people for a week,” said Williams. “I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as many vegetables as I do now.”

Howard Brown encourages patients to make healthy choices when buying food. But Williams said a lack of grocery stores makes that hard for the community.

“By having this bus here, they can immediately make the healthy choice,” Williams said.

Napolean Harding, 55, of Chatham, exited the mobile market with a bag full of kale and squash. It was Harding’s first time shopping on a bus, and he is excited for the mobile markets to come to his community.

“I think a lot of people suffer because of lack of nutrition,” said Harding. “If they had access to better food they would eat better.”

Travion Walker, who has worked as a farmer with Growing Power for five years, says that’s the best part of the job.

“If you eat greens you live longer,” said Walker. “I’ve seen Will Allen’s [CEO of Growing Power] arms. They’re huge.”

Mobile Markets make 28 stops throughout Chicago’s West and South sides, mostly at churches and schools. Growing Power national director Erika Allen says the new bus will allow the buses to serve more areas as well as stay longer at stops. The nonprofit hopes to add a third bus soon.

Jammet said even with his company’s donation, getting the new bus up and running took the involvement of both the city and Growing Power.

“I think this is an example of private, public and nonprofit coming together to solve a problem,” said Jammet. “I think that’s where real solutions come from.”

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