Indianapolis trucks to bring produce to city’s ‘food deserts’

From the IndyStar


Sherry Valentine, Indianapolis, shops for fresh produce on the “Garden on the Go” produce truck parked in front of Lugar Tower Apartments. “This is great. It is a whole lot better than going to the grocery store,” she said Wednesday. / Danese Kenon / The Star

Written by Erika D. Smith

At 83 years old, Lucille Perry finds it a challenge to shop for groceries.

She doesn’t drive and needs a walker, a cane or the hand of a kind stranger to get around. And so, every other Monday, she climbs into a senior citizens van outside Lugar Tower Apartments and then slowly makes her rounds at a grocery store.

But on Wednesday, the store — or at least the produce — came to her.

Indiana University Health rolled out its “Garden on the Go” service, which features a truck full of fresh produce that will be parked in lots in mostly poor neighborhoods across Indianapolis.

It’s an awesome idea. In fact, it’s so awesome and so obvious that I can’t believe some smart entrepreneur didn’t start this decades ago.

But the new service also is a sign of the times.

Hoosiers, perhaps more than ever before, are asking questions about their food. They want to know where it comes from, if it is gluten free, if the meat is certified humane, if the fruit and vegetables are organic. Just take a look at the urban farms and community gardens that are sprouting up across the city.

And now — well, officially starting next Wednesday (Lugar Tower was a trial run) — Indianapolis has a produce truck that will sell locally grown fruits and vegetables. (I consider this a fine addition to the West Coast Tacos trucks.)

“I think there are a lot of different people working toward the same goals,” said Matt Ewer, president and founder of Green BEAN Delivery.

Ewer’s company, which already delivers groceries to about 2,000 homes and apartment complexes a week, will supply the trucks and the produce for the “Garden on the Go” service.

The drivers will make three stops a day on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The truck will run year-round, and customers can come aboard to shop and pay with cash, credit or EBT cards.

Most of the stops (get a schedule at iuhealth.org/gardenonthego) are in “food deserts” — neighborhoods where there are plenty of convenience stores and fast-food joints but no full-service grocery stores and limited access to mass transit.

Lugar Tower Apartments, which is only a few blocks from a Marsh store Downtown, isn’t exactly in a food desert. But the residents seemed to appreciate the stop nonetheless.

“This is nice,” Perry said. “This is really wonderful.”

For Cynthia Pierson, who has diabetes and gets around in a motorized wheelchair, having weekly access to produce will help her with budgeting on a fixed income. Now, she says, she goes to Walmart at the beginning of each month when her Social Security check arrives and buys everything at once. By the end of the month, she has only packaged goods left.

Verna Weaver, another Lugar Tower resident, also has diabetes and came down to buy food without sugar to cook for dinner.

“It’s the best thing that’s happened to Lugar Tower in a long time,” Pierson said. “They’re going to leave here with almost nothing — if nothing — in the truck.”

The Green BEAN folks did run out of potatoes and bananas and had to make a quick run to Marsh.

Nobody seemed to mind.

And that, to me, was a reminder about how a little thing like food can make so many people so happy.

“Food is about celebration,” Ewer said. “Food is about community.”

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1 Comment

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One response to “Indianapolis trucks to bring produce to city’s ‘food deserts’

  1. Mark

    Yes, it’s an awesome idea, but it’s not new. When I was a child living in Switzerland in the early 1970s, we had these big brown trucks from the local supermarket Migros come to the parking lot in front of my building. Except it was basically a full supermarket inside a long truck- a long, single aisle, with a cashier at the end. I always looked forward to it, like a kid looks forward to seeing an ice cream truck. In a lot of ways, we really are far behind other developed countries around the world.

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