The North Side Fresh Mobile Market program will extend past its 14-week pilot stage to the end of 2016, Mayor Richard David announced Monday.
Under the program, which began in June, the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), spends part of every Monday, Wednesday and Friday selling fresh produce on the North Side, an area of the city that hasn’t had a full-service grocery since Grand Union left in 1996. The city has spent $4,950 over the past three and a half months to allow CHOW to sell produce at discounted prices, and will spend another $4,950 until the end of the year. The city is currently exploring extending the program into 2017.
“The City is committed to expand access to healthy foods to North Side residents,” David said Monday in a news release. “We must break down transportation barriers to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables. While this program started small, we have seen it grow successfully in a short period of time.”
Since June, more than 2,500 North Side residents have benefited from the program, which operates under what CHOW Director Mike Leahey called an “ice cream truck model.”
From 1-3 p.m., the mobile market is staked out in Binghamton Plaza parking lot, and then moves to the Lee Barta Community Center from 3:15-4:15 p.m.. It then delivers directly to disabled and elderly residents at their homes.
The announcement of the extension comes amid frustration from the North Side community about the city’s progress on bringing a full-service grocery to the area. When Big Lots, which took over the space in Binghamton Plaza from Grand Union, left, the city announced it was planning to bring Grocery City Market into the location.
But those plans changed when engineers said in May 2015 that the space was “in imminent danger of collapse” and “should be condemned to keep the general public safe.”
The county has since sold the property to the Binghamton Local Development Corp., and the building has not been demolished.
“This is a really important step to address the food desert issue on the North Side,” said Conrad Taylor, D-4th District, whose district includes the North Side. But, he added, “it is by no means a substitute for a grocery store of any sort. We can’t stop working on redeveloping the Big Lots plaza or the Binghamton Plaza.”
Though the program primarily focuses on providing produce, it has also begun to occasionally bring milk and eggs to residents, said CHOW Director Mike Leahy. The program also gave out USDA lunches to children this summer.
Residents interested in home delivery from CHOW can call 607-724-9130.
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