Producemobile to provide fruits and vegetables Tuesday


Photo courtesy of Producemobile

Producemobile. The community food resource will continue to operate to address the need of food insecure residents.

Emma Yarger, Copy Chief

In an effort to fulfill the need for fresh produce in the Evanston community, the Producemobile will continue to operate under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.

Mary Beth Roth, Producemobile site manager, said the Producemobile will provide boxes of non-perishables and fresh produce on a first-come, first-serve basis from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on April 13 in the Levy Senior Center parking lot.

“We are all absolutely determined to hold this Producemobile — determined. We’re just not going to be derailed,” Roth said. “Of course, we had to weigh the risk of exposing and gathering a large group of people and exposing people to COVID-19, but there is such a demand in this area for food.”

According to Greater Chicago Food Depository, between 12.1 to 20 percent of Evanston residents are food insecure.

For more than seven years, the Producemobile has opened at the Robert Crown Community Center to serve about 350 families each month. But this Tuesday, operations will shift to balance the service’s operations with the health of volunteers and patrons.

This month will include a new drive-up option in which volunteers place pre-packed boxes of produce in the trunk of recipients’ cars to allow as much social distance as possible. Walk-ups are welcome, but volunteers will “insist on people keeping their social distance” while they wait for their food, Roth said.

Interfaith Action of Evanston provides and coordinates volunteers for the Producemobile, while the GCFD provides the food and regulations for the program.

The demographic of the volunteers, who are usually over the age of 60, will also change. The GCFD now requires volunteers to fall between the ages of 18 and 59 and have no underlying health conditions, Roth said.

Roth said out of five main organizers — including herself — only one fits the new requirements set out by the GCFD.

Roth said she is grateful to the city, and especially Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th), for helping to fill the need for organizers and volunteers.

Fleming has volunteered with Producemobile in the past and said she pushed for it to remain open during the coronavirus, because she thinks it’s the city’s responsibility to help those who have the greatest needs.

“I’m really concerned about those people who are already barely making it,” Fleming said. “And what this is going to do for their family. Food is something that people should not have to compromise on.”

The Producemobile is one of many community food resources in the Evanston area. The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 have also organized Free Meals for Youth, which packs about 1,500 bags with multiple meals inside for students to pick up every Monday.

“One week (at the Free Meals for Youth distribution), we ran out of meals in about an hour,” Fleming said. “So that shows you that there is a huge need that we still aren’t able to meet.”

Another program, operated by the city’s Health and Human Services Department and organized by Health and Human Services manager Indira Perkins, delivers boxes of food to seniors.

Fleming said she is in the process of organizing a city-run food pantry that will open soon. The pantry will have the capacity to provide up to 300 families with greater access to food.

Roth said she will continue to adjust how the Producemobile operates to ensure it opens on this coming Tuesday and its next planned date, May 12.

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Twitter: @emmayarger

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