Author: Erin Spangler
June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. Fruits and vegetables in all forms (fresh, frozen or canned) are an important part of any healthy eating pattern. However, we celebrate fresh fruits and vegetables this month because there is such a wide variety of fresh produce available at farmers’ markets, grocery stores and even in neighborhood gardens. To find the freshest produce currently in season, check out this handy guide from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: PA Preferred Seasonal Guide
When we asked the people we serve about foods they need but have trouble getting in their neighborhoods, fresh fruits and vegetables were at the top of the list. However, 83% said fresh fruits and vegetables usually cost too much for them to buy, even if they do have a grocery store or farmers’ market in their area. For many households, fresh fruits and vegetables are the foods they value the most. In response to this need, many food pantries across southwestern Pennsylvania distribute fresh produce during their regular food distributions and some pantries open an extra day each month to offer more fresh produce to the people they serve.
Fruits and vegetables are high-value foods. They are high-value because they generally cost more at the grocery store, but also because they have high nutritional value. Diets that include a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk for diet-related diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Diet-related diseases are chronic diseases that can be prevented, managed or reversed by eating a healthy diet. This is why it is so important for everyone, no matter where they live, to have access to foods that support their health and well-being.
Green Grocer is the Food Bank’s mobile farmers’ market. The Green Grocer truck visits 20 neighborhoods across Allegheny County where many residents don’t have easy access to a grocery store. By selling fresh, healthy foods at an affordable price, Green Grocer increases access to foods that are generally more expensive at the grocery store. Everyone is welcome to shop at the market and they accept multiple forms of payment, cash, credit and SNAP/EBT (formerly known as food stamps), as well as Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) checks. The Green Grocer team works with farms across southwestern Pennsylvania to bring fresh local produce to all communities in Allegheny County. In 2019, the Green Grocer team worked with students and faculty at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus to establish the Food Bank Farm in Valencia, Pennsylvania. Fresh produce grown on the one-acre farm is sold on the Green Grocer truck every summer. For more information about Green Grocer, visit: pittsburghfoodbank.org/greengrocer.