Producemobile opens temporary second location to provide fresh produce to low-income residents


Source: Mary Beth Roth and Interfaith Action of Evanston

The Producemobile at Fleetwood-Jourdain on April 23. The distribution center provides fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income Cook County residents.

Emma Edmund, Assistant City Editor

Evanston’s Producemobile, a distribution center that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income residents, has opened a temporary second location at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

The Producemobile, which is a joint effort between the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Interfaith Action of Evanston, operates a permanent location at Robert Crown Community Center on the second Tuesday of every month. The distribution center at Fleetwood-Jourdain operates between 3:30 and 5 p.m. Interfaith Action of Evanston provides volunteers for both Producemobiles, while the Greater Chicago Food Depository provides the food and truck.

The new location at Fleetwood-Jourdain opened two months ago when the Depository began accepting surplus produce from the USDA. It will continue to operate for two more months, closing in June.

Rita Bailey, treasurer of Interfaith Action of Evanston and an organizer of the Producemobile, said Cook County residents in need of fresh fruits and vegetables go to both locations. The Fleetwood-Jourdain location serves some 200 individuals, she said, but those individuals may be providing larger households with fresh produce.

“We have between one person a household — a lot of older people who come through have just one person, or possibly two,” Bailey said. “But then we have families of eight or nine people who come through the lines.”

Bailey said regardless of household size, everyone gets the same amount of produce. At the Producemobile, residents receive a ticket with a number corresponding to their place in line. While the Fleetwood-Jourdain location does not begin produce distribution until around 3:30 p.m., Bailey said some residents begin lining up as early as 2 p.m. to get a better spot in line and guarantee that they will receive as much produce as possible.

Mary Beth Roth, a volunteer and Producemobile site manager, said the produce offered depends on what the Depository delivers, and volunteers don’t usually find out the produce for that day’s distribution until the pallets are unloaded from the truck.

Roth said the Producemobile has offered fruits and vegetables ranging from oranges to spaghetti squash to cactus leaves.

“Our guests come with strollers, carts, heavy-duty cloth bags, wagons — you name it, anything on wheels,” Roth said. “They’ve learned after they come once that they get so much that they bring rolling vehicles.”

The Producemobile is just one of the services offered by Interfaith Action of Evanston. The organization also runs soup kitchens, warming centers in the winter and a daily hospitality center for the homeless to have breakfast and work with an job counselor and a computer trainer.

Susan Murphy, executive director of Interfaith Action of Evanston, said while many people can afford to live in Evanston, not everyone has the means to get healthy food. Though Evanston is often considered a “comfortable community to live in,” she said sometimes people don’t realize how expensive the city can be for some residents.

“Homeless and hungry people look just like you and me,” Murphy said. “We don’t know who they are when we walk through our streets, but there’s a lot of people out there who are homeless and that we see every day. We just don’t know it because they look just like us.”

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