Just because you bring fruits and vegetables to poorer neighborhoods doesn't mean that these people will embrace them. If you don't try doing so, you will never find out.
Some major cities are fighting poor eating habits in neighborhoods traditionally ignored by major grocery store chains. Those looking for quick solutions will be greatly disappointed. The current scenario took a long time to build, and convincing people to eat fresher produce won't be easy.
Making it easier are programs such as Fresh Fields in Chicago. Fresh Fields operates in the poorest areas of Chicago's South and West sides. The organization purchased a CTA bus and converted the bus into a portable fruits and vegetables market. Fresh Fields got a grant for a second bus that should arrive in September.
"Fresh Moves exposes kids to different vegetables," said Sheelah Muhammad, co-creator of the Fresh Moves Mobile Produce Market, at Chicago's Green Fest.
Kids can be the hardest sell and the program tries to help them adjust to life with fresh produce.
Muhammad pointed out that the bus offers a 50¢ bag of grapes, ideal for a quick snack for a child. Kids can also make the connection between what they have been eating versus what is possible, as Muhammad noted, as the people on the bus offer grapes or carrots to children in exchange for their Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
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The idea of buying smaller portions of fresh produce appealed to a Chicago Green Fest audience member who was frustrated by buying a bunch of produce for a single person.
The program aims to be a community force with consistent scheduling and partnering with schools, health clinics, and senior citizens.
Chicago is also doing its part by approving portable fruit and vegetable carts in areas currently underserved by major produce programs.
For a long period of time, these neighborhoods have been underserved by major and local grocery stores. Kids in these areas know more about different types of Cheetos than the similarly colored carrot.
Patterns don't change overnight for people who have good/great opportunities. When time and money are crucial, people often make poor food choices. And they haven't been told they deserve better until fairly recently.
Some people who live in good situations still make bad food choices. The key word is "choice" as in you have good options and you don't choose to take advantage of them.
People who live in poor situations haven't had choices or good options. Offering them choices is a small yet necessary part of the process. If you are used to bad produce, even the kindest gentlest presentation may not convince you that fresher is better. Even if you like the idea of fresher, your taste buds have to get used to something new. And you have to have faith that this promising step will stay around for awhile.
As a society, we need to decide whether we want to help people make better food choices. Education and time can take care of the rest. While guarantees are not certain, trying is the only way to find out whether we can make a difference.