Fresh Produce Bus Battles Food Deserts

The absence of fresh produce in many neighborhoods on the South and West sides is leading to several initiatives, including the development of community gardens, vertical farms, and the opening of new bargain stores with produce. Now grass-roots organization Food Desert Action unveils a solution to the healthy food crisis — a renovated CTA bus transformed into a mobile produce stand.

The concept is simple, [founder Steven] Casey said. If residents in poor neighborhoods can’t make it to stores that carry healthy food, the Fresh Moves bus will bring produce to them.

“Eventually, we want to be just like the ice cream truck,” Casey said. “Everyone remembers the music, they hear it and they know ice cream is there. When they see our bus, we want them to know fresh fruits and vegetables are here…”

Rather than rely on residents to get to a market, Fresh Moves will deliver affordable, healthy food to their struggling communities block by block. And instead of focusing on profit, Fresh Moves’ mission is to address the social issues that arise in communities where the food selection is abysmal….

A July 2006 study found that residents on Chicago’s South and West sides had to travel twice as far to access grocery stores. Those communities are littered with fast-food restaurants with fatty, processed foods. According to the study, commissioned by LaSalle Bank, residents who live in food deserts are more likely to die prematurely and at greater rates from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity…

The bus will start its first route in the Austin and North Lawndale neighborhoods — among the most food-deprived communities, according to the 2006 study.

Shoppers can’t ride the bus, but they can board it at the Community Bank of Lawndale on South Homan Avenue on Wednesday mornings, shop during a two-hour window, pay for their food and exit through the back doors. The bus will then ease down to the North Lawndale Employment Network on West Flournoy Street. Typically, the bus will visit churches, health centers and schools that have agreed to partner with Food Desert Action.

Local efforts to develop agriculture are both directly aided by and discussed in the seminar SUST 230 Food (offered at Roosevelt’s downtown campus this fall). For more information on this or any other of our courses, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email

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