Veggie Van gives kids fresh alternatives

- It may not look like it, but the Tampa area has a desert. In fact, it has dozens of them. But it's not water they lack, its fresh fruits and vegetables. 

A 'food desert' is an area at least one mile from the nearest grocery store.  Paul Johnson of Sulphur Springs lives in one.

"Most of the produce they've got around here, it’s not so great. Most of the kids don’t even know where to get vegetables from," he explained.

That’s why, twice a month, Johnson comes to the YMCA Veggie Van. It's a mobile marketplace bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved communities. The fee is only $1 a bag.

"It's something I always plan on. It saves a lot, you buy about $6 worth of food for $1; that's pretty good," Johnson continued.

Without the Veggie Van, people who live in these areas wouldn't have many options when it comes to fresh food.

"The families depend on the corner stores for shopping. In the corner stores, there is no healthy alternative, and if they are going to buy fruits and vegetables, the price is outrageous. It turns out to be cheaper to buy soda and chips versus getting apples and oranges," explained program director Elizabeth Roman.

Falisha Barr has five children to feed and says the Veggie Van is one of the ways she tries to keep their health in check.

"I feel that when I can't have items like this in the house, they are getting too much syrup, they are getting too much starch. They are eating extra of something else and not eating the proper things they need to eat."

The Veggie Van serves adults with children in the home in targeted neighborhoods. They currently serve the neighborhoods of Tampa Heights, Sulphur Springs, and Wimauma in Hillsborough County and Lacoochee in Pasco County.

To sign up, go to http://www.tampaymca.org/programs/community-programs/veggie-van/

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