Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fresh fruits and vegetables come to Detroit neighborhoods lacking in well-stocked grocery stores via roving trucks.
Detroit neighborhoods are dominated by liquor stores and corner markets that carry few, if any, fresh fruits and vegetables. This lack of fresh food is a public health problem in Detroit, which has one of the nation's highest obesity rates, and where half of its residents must travel at least twice as far to reach the nearest grocery store as they do to a fast-food restaurant or convenience store. A pilot project known as MI Neighborhood Food Movers is designed to change that for some Detroit residents. Trucks full of fresh fruits and vegetables rove three Detroit neighborhoods peddling produce like ice cream, and on designated days, set up in high-traffic areas such as church parking lots on Sundays. Customers can board the trucks to select fresh produce stocked from a local farmers market, and pay for it in a numbers of ways, including using the state's debit card for food stamp recipients. Funded by a $75,000 state investment and made possible through Michigan's partnerships with three nonprofits, the program also focuses on establishing sustainable local businesses. A manual provides potential vendors information on everything from obtaining funding, to buying a truck and applying for the appropriate permits. The pilot program, which the state plans to develop into a larger initiative that will include urban gardens, more delivery services, and cooking classes, will be reevaluated at the end of Decemeber. Other cities have implemented similar programs to reduce food deserts in urban areas that include adding pushcart vendors who sell fresh produce in New York City and a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in parts of Los Angeles.