The market is housed in a specially designed RV that will visit several locations every day to ensure multiple communities can benefit from the market’s resources, such as access to fresh produce, social services, and cooking demonstrations.
Funded by a $308,000 grant by Adams’ office and operating expenses provided by the Laurie Tisch Illumination Fund, the Fresh Vibes Market was introduced at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in East Flatbush last week.
“This is a landmark day for the borough of Brooklyn and for health in the city,” said Adams. “This is an excellent opportunity not just to look at the problem but to use technology and information to solve the problem.”
Inside the RV are rows upon rows of fresh fruits and vegetables. The produce is grown locally in the Saratoga Urban Agro-Ecological Center, a garden on Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy that produces 7,000 pounds of produce each season.
Other features include solar-powered refrigerators and freezers capable of storing up to 300 emergency food products, a full kitchen with a chef to provide cooking instruction, and a ramp to provide access for disabled persons.
“Our primary goal for this vehicle is to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by engaging families to make healthier eating choices, and to introduce measures that can make a dent in their high levels of chronic disease,” said Dr. Melony Samuels, executive director and founder of The Campaign Against Hunger.
Currently, the market travels to three locations a day, five times a week, serving between 80 and 100 people at each location. It specifically targets areas like Bed-Stuy and Brownsville, all neighborhoods with limited access to farm stands and grocery stores, but saturated with fast food options.
“Food insecurity is a health issue and it contributes towards obesity and diabetes,” said Rick Luftglass, executive director of the Laurie Tisch Illumination Fund. “The diabetes rate in Brownsville is about 22 percent. Compared to the Upper East Side, which is about 4 percent, it’s absolutely astonishing.”
The Fresh Vibes Markets accepts SNAP, EBT, WIC, and other benefits. If people do not know how to sign up for those benefits, the market offers free, step-by-step services for those who want to enroll, as well as offering tax assistance.
The Campaign Against Hunger (originally the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger until 2018) is a 20-year-old organization serving over 100 ZIP codes in the city. The group helps feed approximately 35,000 New Yorkers each month.
“One of our main cores of service is to make sure we address the disparities in our community where we have so many families that have been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and obesity,” said Samuels. “They deserve to have choices, they deserve to have healthy food.”