TAMPA, FL — The moment children spot the colorful, refrigerated Veggie Van round the corner into their neighborhood, they can barely contain their excitement.
For children living in food deserts, a bunch of ripe bananas or a bag of sweet potatoes is as much of a treat as an ice cream sundae. With a shortage of grocery stores in their urban neighborhoods, fresh fruits and vegetables are in shortage and, when they are available, they're too expensive for the family's budget.
Knowing the importance of nutritious foods to maintain a health immune system during the coronavirus pandemic, Feeding Tampa Bay is donating pallets of fresh produce to the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA Veggie Van every Wednesday.
What is a food desert? Food deserts are located at least one mile from the nearest supermarket, supercenter or large grocery store in urban areas and more than 10 miles in rural areas. Many residents who live in food deserts do not have a vehicle and rely on walking or public transportation.
The Tampa YMCA was able to launch the Veggie Van thanks to funding from the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, The Joy McCann Foundation, Publix Super Markets Charities, and Bank of America. Additionally, the Florida Department of Agriculture has played a key advisory role in developing the mobile market place concept and moving it forward.
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