Nonprofits and city officials in Philadelphia have been working to bring fresh foods to food deserts for years. They have increased the number of farmers markets in the city and added fresh fruits and vegetables to corner stores. This summer, high school students in West Philadelphia joined the cause.
Seven students involved with the Urban Nutrition Institute have been taking turns riding around West Philly in groups, one on a tricycle with an aqua-colored cart attached to the front. It looks like it might contain water ice, and when it pulled into Malcolm X Park at 52nd and Pine streets Wednesday, kids crowded around it.
There is no water ice in sight though, just plastic bags of watermelon, mangoes, oranges and kiwi that sell for $1.50 or $2.
“We go around West Philadelphia selling fruits and vegetables to urban communities, for affordable prices, making fruits and vegetables attainable for everyone,” said Anthony Sewell, 18, a recent graduate of Sayre High School. He helped hatch the plan for the cart last fall and is working the cash box.
Lynn Williams stopped at the cart with the seven charges in her at-home day-care program to buy a bag of fruit.
“There are quite a few grocery stores and even during the summertime farmers markets, but a lot of people don’t know about them, or don’t have access or even have the money sometimes,” Williams said. “Fruit is expensive if you’re going to the grocery store, so this is actually a pretty good idea. We got a large bag of fruit for two bucks.”
The YUMM cart is also selling vegetables grown at Sayre High School’s urban garden. Organizers say they hope to continue the pilot program in the fall and next summer.
Soon they will have an electronic benefits card reading machine, paid for by the City of Philadelphia. The city is supporting this and a handful of other fruit and vegetable carts to improve access to fresh produce in undeserved areas.
A note of disclosure: The City of Philadelphia’s Get Healthy Philly program provides funding to WHYY for its “Fit” series.