Fresh Produce mobile back in Chicago
January 31, 2010
By Casey Toner
For three years, low-income residents have looked to the Greater Chicago Food Depository's fresh produce mobile for fruits and vegetables.
Twice a month, the van would stop in Chicago Heights and distribute the healthy goods.
That is, until it stopped coming in June because the Chicago Miracle Temple Church in Chicago Heights could no longer pay for its insurance.
According to co-pastor Cheryl Anderson, the price of insurance was too much to keep the service. Maintaining insurance for the church as well as the vehicle was $1,200 to $1,400 a month.
"It's a killer," Anderson said. "I was very upset and I cried. To have a certificate of insurance for everything I want to give to the poor is a little bit unbalanced and it weighs heavily on my heart."
Anderson said the food van, which served about 200 families a month and packed 15,000 pounds of produce per visit, is a precious supplier of nutrition for those who need it most.
Families without the money to buy the goods at a grocery store could always count on getting as many as 12 bags of food a month from the fresh produce mobile.
"People are struggling with obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes," Anderson said. "Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive. A lot of those people have dietary constraints and they need to eat the right types of antioxidant foods."
The good news is that the fresh produce mobile is returning to the city in March. The truck will be stopping by its old stomping grounds - at 10:30 a.m. March 11 at the Chicago Heights Park District, 1400 Chicago Road.
Through generous donations and a new insurance broker, Anderson said her church scraped up the needed funds to revive the program.
The church is now buying its insurance from the Indiana-based Rothchild Agency for between $1,000 and $1,200 a month.
Additionally, Flossmoor orthopedic surgeon Anthony Brown donated $3,000 to the church on the recommendation of a high-profile Chicago Heights client.
Chicago Heights Police Chief Michael Camilli, who broke his ankle when he fell off a ladder in his garage in October, brought it up to Brown when he was seeing him for treatment.
Camilli said Brown and his wife were looking to donate money to charities during Christmas. Having heard about the church's financial struggles, Camilli recommended the Chicago Miracle Temple Church.
"They do great things in the community," Camilli said. "It made me feel good that someone who did want to donate to a worthy cause found a worthy cause and that I'm part of the community. I just hooked up two people who wanted to be hooked up."
What a hook-up it was. Anderson credited the donation with helping her keep the church, and all of its outreach programs, afloat.
"He and his wife saved the food pantry," Anderson said. "We were struggling to buy food and the de-mand exceeded our ability to do it."
Now that the church's coffers have more dough, the low-income families in the community can again eat healthy food.
"I know that it's going to help a lot of people with dietary concerns and people who are out of work and those who are the working poor," Anderson said.
"We'll give them cantaloupes and blueberries and corn and cabbage. They get artichokes and avocados and stuff like that. They're like, 'Wow, Reverend, this is like gourmet!' "