More than a year’s worth of work in grant writing, design, retrofitting and planning came to fruition on Thursday when the GreenStream mobile market pulled into Pride Park.
The GreenStream is the product of a $100,000 grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Florida Department of Health office in Manatee County and Geraldson Community Farm, an organic community-supported farm. The grant was born out of a one-year DOH study focused on food deserts in Palmetto, Rubonia, East Bradenton, Pine Village and Samoset.
The GreenStream will bring fresh produce to food deserts in Manatee County, or areas where residents do not have easy, affordable access to healthy food. Pride Park is the first of five neighborhoods served by the GreenStream.
The other four areas include Samoset, Washington Gardens, East Bradenton and Rubonia. The GreenStream, easily identified by a colorful exterior designed by a Manatee School for the Arts student, will be parked at Pride Park every Monday from 4-6 p.m.
Amber Mills, a public health associate at the Florida Department of Health-Manatee, said she and Christa Leonard, Geraldon’s operations manager, are working on a schedule for the remaining four neighborhoods.
Pride Park residents Michael LaClair, 33, his son Skylar Wilkinson, 13, and LaClair’s girlfriend, Stephnie Wilkinson, 34, were hanging out at the GreenStream launch event on Thursday afternoon. They enjoyed seeing a positive and unifying community event happening in Pride Park.
“I feel like it helps keep some of the violence away,” LaClair said.
He credited the local police for “cleaning up” the neighborhood, but said it always seems to come back in one way or another. At times, he and the Wilkinsons hear gunshots at night.
“To see stuff like this happen helps put the kids’ mind at ease,” LaClair said.
He was at the event with Skylar Wilkinson and a couple of kids he and Stephnie Wilkinson were babysitting for friends who had to work.
“We heard some activity (referring to gunshots) last night. It’s almost nightly. So it’s nice to bring them out today on a nice day and see this,” LaClair said.
Stephnie Wilkinson noted she does not have a car, so for her it’s tough to access fresh produce. The GreenStream makes it easy because she can walk down the street to shop for fresh food, she said.
The GreenStream accomplishes a few facets of what the Florida Department of Health hopes to do for the communities it serves.
“Aligning healthy food access with those that do not have access improves obesity rates and also helps with chronic diseases,” Mills said. “It helps to provide healthy food access in collaboration with educational opportunities, as well.”
Edmundo Delgado, a home-school liaison at Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary School, nearby to Pride Park, has enjoyed working with Leonard and Mills on focus groups to make sure students and parents get what they want and need out of the GreenStream. He’s looking forward to connecting the GreenStream with educating students at Daughtrey.
“(Geraldson and the Department of Health) aim to connect activities with schools so the children can learn about whole foods, organic foods and local foods,” Delgado said. “And that is wonderful.”
Leonard credited her team at the farm for helping get the GreenStream going. She hopes to expand beyond the five communities and park anywhere people want to see more fresh produce. Those with suggestions for GreenStream locations can contact the farm through geraldsoncommunityfarm.org.