RICHMOND, Va. -- Eating a fresh cooked meal every day is a priority for Loretta Smith, but the Hillside Court resident said getting fresh ingredients is not an easy task. Hillside Court sits in the middle of one of the largest "food deserts" in the city of Richmond.
The USDA defines a food desert as areas "vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. . . due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers."
Smith said the nearest grocery is several miles and a long bus trip away. Smith, who does not own a car, has to take two different city buses to get to the Food Lion on Hull Street, and bring along a rolling cart to help carry her groceries home. She said one leg of the trip takes awhile.
"About an hour on the bus," Smith said.
Tuesday morning, Smith was one of more than 150 Hillside Court residents who received groceries distributed by Feedmore's mobile food pantry program. Feedmore and Kroger unveiled the newest tool to combat food deserts in Central Virginia.
Kroger donated a $120,000 refrigeration truck to Feedmore's mobile pantry fleet, the first addition to it in more than a decade.
“If donating a truck means that more Richmond families will not have to choose between buying food or paying the electric bill, then we’re proud to provide this truck to help more families put a meal on the table," said Allison McGee with Kroger Mid-Atlantic.
The mobile pantry program distrubutes meals to more than 2,000 families in need each month, according to Feedmore. The program distributes more than 75,000 pounds of fresh foods each month and more than 1 million pound total last year.
Doug Pick, CEO of Feedmore, said the new truck means more meals on tables in low income areas of Central Virginia."
"Many folks in our community live in food deserts where they don't have the ability to get fresh produce, to get the kind of food that really helps with their diet. We know there are a lot of issues with diet related diseases," Pick said.
Pick and McGee said one truck will not solve the entire food desert puzzle in our region; that will require a continued commitment to fighting hunger. However, they said expanding access to fresh foods to more low income residents is critical for children and families the mobile pantry serves.
Smith said donated groceries help many Hillside Court residents get through the month when cash or SNAP benefits are running low. Smith called the groceries a "blessing" but is equally excited about the new, sturdy plastic bags they came in. The bags work well with her cart, and the trip to the store is still a long one.
"Yeah I love my basket, I treasure my basket!" Smith said.
To learn how to help out and find more information about Feedmore's mobile food pantry program, now sponsored by Kroger Mid Atlantic, visit their website.