By Hermine Bloom of the The Columbia Chronicle
For those living in the Austin and North Lawndale communities, “default food” is pizza or McDonalds, says Austin resident Shawn Jackson, the principal at Spencer Elementary Technology Academy, 214 N. Lavergne Ave.
“I’ve looked at the kids coming in, and a lot of them don’t even eat breakfast – or they substitute [breakfast] with junk food,” Jackson said.
To combat this inequity, a mobile market operated by Fresh Moves will act as the city’s first mobile produce stand catering exclusively to Austin and North Lawndale.
A renovated Chicago Transit Authority bus painted bright red with larger-than-life fruits and vegetables on it will be parked outside health centers, schools and churches in these two underserved Chicago communities. Inside, shelves and baskets contain fresh bananas, kale and tomatoes for sale. Recipe cards donated by Kendall College will also be handed out.
Fresh Moves will debut on Wednesday, May 25, in North Lawndale and Thursday, May 26, in Austin after nearly four years in the making. The organization seeks to be a 12-month solution to the city’s persisting food desert issue.
Although mobile-food buses exist in places like Oakland, Calif., upstate New York, Tennessee and North Carolina, this is the first effort of its kind in Chicago.
During the project’s soft launch, which will last approximately six weeks, the bus will operate three days a week to test things such as what kinds of produce the community likes and what parking lots the bus is physically unable to enter. Link cards will be accepted.
The van is scheduled to be at the Lawndale Christian Health Center, 3860 W. Ogden, on Wednesday, May 25, and at Spencer Elementary Technology School, 214 N. Lavergne, on Thursday, May 26.
Toward the end of June, Fresh Moves plans to operate five days a week.
Fresh Moves Board Secretary Sheelah Muhammad said banks, churches, health clinics and schools in Austin will get involved by hosting stops for the bus or throwing fundraisers.
“We wanted to empower the community and make sure the community wanted and needed this,” Muhammad said. “We’ve gotten a resounding, ‘When are you coming?’”
Spencer Technology Academy will be one of the first locations during Fresh Moves’ soft launch, and Jackson is thrilled.
“There’s a difference between providing awareness and providing resources,” Jackson said. “What they’re doing is ingenious.”
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Here’s what our reporter Bonni McKeown learned:
On Wednesdays, the Fresh Moves bus will stop in Lawndale from 9 to 11 a.m. at Lawndale Christian Health Center, 3860 W. Ogden; from noon to 2 p.m. at Sakofa Safe Child Initiative, 4041 W. Roosevelt; and at Green Youth Farm, 3555 W. Ogden, from 3 to 5 p.m.
On Thursdays, the bus will stop in Austin from 9:30 a.m. to noon at Spencer Tech, 214 N. Lavergne; from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Phalanx Family Services, 4628 W. Washington; and from 3 to 5 p.m. at Bethel New Life.