A 14-week pilot program in the City of Binghamton will bring a “mobile market” to the North Side three days a week, providing fresh fruits and vegetables to an area of the city that has long been without a grocery store.
Under the North Side Fresh Mobile Market program, which launched Wednesday, Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, or CHOW, will spend a portion of each Monday, Wednesday and Friday selling produce around the North Side.
Funding of $4,950 from the city will allow CHOW to sell the produce to customers at a discount and occasionally offer a limited variety of free items, Mayor Richard David said.
On the three designated days of the week, the mobile market will set up in the parking lot of the Binghamton Plaza at 33 W. State St., selling produce there from 1 to 3 p.m. It will then move to Lee Barta Community Center on Liberty Street from 3:15 to 3:45. After that, from 3:45 to 5, CHOW will deliver produce directly to residences across the North Side, including to elderly and disabled individuals.
CHOW Director Mike Leahey called this “an ice cream truck model,” where CHOW will go up and down the streets, interacting with community members and asking them about what types of food they would like to see in the area.
“The whole thing is designed to support the community’s health needs,” Leahey said. ” CHOW views this not only as a project that will work to fight hunger, but maintain health and also prevent chronic long-term disease.”
Standing in the parking lot of the Binghamton Plaza on Wednesday, where the first market had been set up, David said the city needs to “break down the transportation barriers” that exist for North Side residents who want access to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables.
The mobile market is an improvement but not intended to be a “silver bullet solution,” he said.
The city has received some criticism from residents in recent years about the food desert that has long afflicted the North Side. On Wednesday, David’s news conference was interrupted by questions from a North Side resident about when the city would bring a grocery store to the area.
Earlier in the news conference, David told members of the media the city was still working to develop a grocery store at 435 W. State St., the former Big Lots plaza.
Six months after taking office at the start of 2014, David announced Grocery City Market would open in the West State Street plaza as part of a $3.5 million proposed development there.
It would bring a full-service grocery back to the North Side for the first time since 1996, when Grand Union left the Binghamton Plaza.
But last spring, engineers said the former Big Lots building was unsafe and should be condemned, putting the plans for development on hold.
“It has been a long process, but that’s where we are, and there are steps that are being taken to continue to move that project forward,” he said.
David said the mobile market fulfills a campaign promise he made in 2013 to bring fresh produce to the area.
The North Side Fresh Mobile Market program is partnership between the city, CHOW, VINES, the United Way of Broome County and the owner of the Binghamton Plaza, which agreed to donate the space for the market free of charge, David said.
“While this program will start small, we have great hopes it will expand with more community partners and additional produce providers,” he said. “The city is committed to (expanding) access to North Side residents.”
Residents interested in signing up for CHOW produce deliveries can call CHOW at 607-724-9130.
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