This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
COATESVILLE — Summer is the time of the year to see gardens and farms flourishing and farmer’s markets springing all over the county.
Even with the greenery growing in abundance, not everyone in Chester County has access to affordable, nutritious food such as fruits and vegetables.
However, a mobile produce market has officially come to the county, even if it is technically in its second year.
“We are so excited to have this truck on the road,” said Larry Welsch, executive director of the Chester County Food Bank. “We started the program last year with our truck (and) got it going.”
The Fresh2You Mobile Market began in 2015 as a pilot program operating in a very small area of the county in mainly just Coatesville and Honey Brook.
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At that time, the food bank also used its own truck and a pop-up tent.
Now, with a truck specifically for the Fresh2You program, volunteers, staff and board members of the food bank, along with other members of the community, gathered at the West End Park in Coatesville to kick off the 2016 season with a ribbon cutting in front of the vibrant yellow truck.
“The entire back third of the truck is a massive refrigeration unit,” said Roberta Cosentino, coordinator of Fresh2You. “The middle section has a triple sink and a handwashing sink so we can actually do food prep work on there if the day comes.”
The truck brings fresh produce, healthy food staples and nutrition education to underserved communities throughout the county.
Fresh2You will spend an hour or two at different locations throughout the week and set out the produce for people in the area to shop for and, making it more appealing, Fresh2You accepts pretty much every kind of payment.
“Think of it as a farmers’ market or market stand,” Cosentino said. “This is open to absolutely everybody in the community. The special thing is we do offer matching dollars on fruits and vegetables for people paying with their EBT card and their SNAP dollars. We accept Farmers’ Market vouchers so people who are on WIC and seniors can get (fruits and vegetables). We literally accept all forms or payment.”
Along with the fruits and vegetables, people can purchase dried beans, grains and local, pastured eggs.
Fresh2You will also be holding some cooking demonstrations in the areas where the truck will be stationed for over an hour.
“Where we do have a couple of hours, we are going to be having some cooking demos and we have some fantastic interns and volunteers who are coordinating that,” Cosentino said. “It’s called the Taste It program. We offer really simple, easy recipes with ingredients that most people will have on hand and fresh produce and grains.”
On hand to celebrate the ribbon cutting of Fresh2You were state Sen. Andrew “Andy” Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland, and Elmer Duckinfield, an original founder of the Chester County Gleaning Program.
Welsch credits the two as being the ones to bring produce to both the food bank and the truck.
“Twenty years ago when we started (the Chester County Gleaning Program), we never dreamt that we would have the Chester County Food Bank to be one of the finest programs in the nation,” Dinniman said. “We simply, at that time, knew there was a question of hunger here in Chester County and it made no sense to any of us.”
Now, with the food bank, the numerous food cupboards in the county and the Fresh2You truck, people have gained that access to be able to put food on the table.
“We know that Chester County is such a rich, agricultural area,” said Marie Kessler, food and education program manager at the food bank. “This is just another way, another avenue that we’re able to get that high-quality food to neighborhoods where folks might just have trouble accessing, but would like to have.”
The produce comes from what is grown by the food bank and what is grown by partnering farms in both Chester and Lancaster counties. The citruses are domestically sourced, keeping everything from within the country.
The food bank wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the Fresh2You truck without the help of partnerships, including QVC, which recently came on board.
“Since 2009, QVC has teamed up with the Chester County Food Bank to bring help and hope to those in need in the communities where we live and work,” said Suzanne Quigley, director of community affairs at QVC. “By fostering an even stronger connection with the food bank through our support of the Fresh2You program, we hope to amplify their efforts in addressing food insecurity in the Chester County region for years to come.”
The Fresh2you truck will run from June 20 through November and be out Mondays through Thursdays.
Its schedule will be as follows:
- Mondays: Coatesville Library, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; West End Park in Coatesville, from 2 to 4 p.m.; and Better Tomorrows at Regency Park Apartments in Coatesville, from 5 to 6 p.m.
- Tuesdays: South Mill in Kennett Square, for employees only; and Oxford Village Market, from 2 to 4 p.m.
- Wednesdays: Westside Community Center and Providence Church in West Chester, from noon to 2 p.m.; and Chester County Family Academy in West Chester, from 3 to 5:30 p.m.
- Thursdays: Service King in Parkesburg, from 10 a.m. to noon; Veteran Construction at Mogreena in Modena, from 1 to 2 p.m.; and Gable’s Auto Repair in Honey Brook, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
“The large part of what we do is food distribution to local food cupboards throughout the county,” Cosentino said. “This truck is an add-on to that because folks who go to the food cupboards need to be below a certain income level. This truck is for absolutely everybody, including the working poor and the nearly poor – those people who may not qualify for free food distribution but still have trouble affording fresh, nutritious, local foods.
“We’re trying to meet that need by having a matching dollars program, by selling food that we ourselves grow and by bringing it to people. A large part of food access is geography. Coatesville does not have a supermarket within the city limits. We’re trying to meet a need in another way.”