Fresh Produce Finds It Way to the City

Fresh produce is showing up in stores where it wasn't before. (Photo: rick [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

When I read something like this, I know just how fortunate I am.

“When it opened, we had to pinch ourselves a couple of times.”

That’s a quote by Lucinda Hudson of Philadelphia. What is she pinching herself over? A grocery store with fresh produce. It’s been over three decades since she had a convenient way to buy fresh produce.

When I think of people who have trouble getting fresh produce, I don’t think of people who live just a handful of miles away from me.

The New York Times reports that fresh produce is having an easier time finding its way into low-income neighborhoods like Hudson’s in West Philadelphia. State and local government grant and loan programs are available that are designed to help get “nutritious food in places with few, if any, good stores to choose from.”

The Shop-Rite store that Hudson now has access to was made possible through the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative.

It’s not just big stores that are benefiting from the initiative.

Last year, Romano’s Grocery, in the Juniata Park section of north Philadelphia, used a $150,000 grant from the state program, to pay part of the cost of installing new lighting and energy-efficient refrigeration equipment. Before the overhaul, said Juan Carlos Romano, the store owner, “we had bananas and onions; that was about it.” Now the store has a produce section, and Romano has experimented with different varieties of potato and squash to determine what his customers like. Business has increased by 40 percent, he said.

A separate New York Times piece tells of another way fresh produce is making it’s way into areas of a city where fresh produce is lacking – this time it's in New York. Green Carts are mobile fruit and vegetable carts, and the city has just approved adding 1000 of them

for neighborhoods in the five boroughs that have long been isolated from traditional supermarkets, grocery stores and farmers markets offering fresh produce at reasonable prices.

And people are buying.

Kumar Gouranga, a 45-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh who for three months has operated a cart at 165th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, said that “business is so good that we are staying open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

24 hours a day, seven days a week! Obviously people are hungry for fresh fruits and vegetables.

These are positive, effective steps being taken by major cities to get healthier foods to their residents. Let’s hope that other cities take notice and make it easier for their residents to get fresh produce, too.