If you live in one of the region’s food desert communities, the Green Grocer is likely idling in a parking lot near you.
The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s rolling farmers’ market visits areas that don’t have easy access to fresh, healthy and affordable produce.
The motorized resource, which launched in 2015, operates from April through November, hitting 20 designated stops in 20 different neighborhoods each week. New markets this year include Duquesne, East Pittsburgh and Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar. A flier with all of the locations and dates is available online.
Josh Anderegg, the food bank’s mobile market supervisor, says the vehicle — a FedEx truck retrofitted with shelves, stairs, windows, a refrigerator and a freezer — is loaded with fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese, eggs, milk, juice and dry goods, including cinnamon swirl and white bread from 5 Generation Bakers. Most of the items come from wholesalers, but, during the spring and summer, the Green Grocer is packed with seasonal food from local farms such as Freeman Family Farm & Greenhouse in Manchester.
Two food bank interns and a team of volunteers plant and harvest produce at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus in Gibsonia, which they sell from the truck.
The truck accepts cash, credit and debit cards, food stamps and vouchers from the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. For every $2 spent at the Green Grocer using SNAP/EBT, customers can double their purchase via a $2 coupon.
Everyone can access the offerings no matter where they live or what form of payment they use.
Before the pandemic, shoppers could board the truck and pick out their own groceries. For safety reasons, customers — who must wear a mask and practice social distancing — now call out their orders and an employee gathers the goods and places them on a table (which is equipped with a Plexiglass barrier) for inspection before they are bagged.
Anderegg says the truck provides an alternative to traveling to a grocery store or traditional farmers’ market.
“We offer a really good value and, most importantly, give people a safe and dignified shopping experience,” he says.
For more Pittsburgh farmers’ markets, check out the NEXTpittsburgh guide to local farmers’ markets.