PITTSBURG -- A mobile farmers market will soon start selling fresh fruits and vegetables at two schools in Pittsburg and one in Bay Point as part of a countywide effort to get healthier foods to residents who don't live near large supermarkets.
Through the Fresh Approach program, a refrigerated truck filled with produce will make stops timed to when parents are picking up or dropping off their children at Willow Cove Elementary and Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High schools in Pittsburg and Riverview Middle School in Bay Point on Tuesdays starting on May 14.
The three schools will be the first sites for Contra Costa County's mobile farmers markets, but others are in the works.
The program, which is open to the community, is slated to continue through the end of the school year, said Matt Belasco, director of child nutrition for Pittsburg Unified School District. He added that the district, which is using no funds for the program, plans to bring it back in August for the start of the new school year.
"The two (Pittsburg) schools were selected because they are considered to be in food deserts, which means there are no full-line grocery stores within (a safe walking distance) of two miles," said Belasco, who also hopes students will shop for produce when the produce truck comes by.
While there are small grocers near the schools, such stores are not well-stocked with fruits and vegetables, said Laura Salcido, the agricultural program manager for Fresh Approach.
Fresh Approach is a sister nonprofit to Concord-based Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association, which operates more than 60 certified farmers markets throughout the Bay Area, including one in Pittsburg.
Salcido and Belasco point out that not everybody has the time or transportation to get to the Pittsburg farmers market, which runs every Saturday in May through October from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Old Town Plaza.
That's why mobile farmers markets have a place in the community. "We're bringing it to them," Salcido said.
During May, they will also open in Brentwood, Richmond and San Pablo through community partnerships that Fresh Approach has with First 5 centers, low-income housing complexes and public parks.
The county was targeted as a place that could benefit from mobile farmers markets because of high rates of nutrition-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and having several neighborhoods not close to large grocery stores.
"Right now we are focusing on Contra Costa County, but the goal is to develop a financially viable model that could then be replicated in other counties, definitely Alameda included," Salcido wrote in an email.
The program, which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also provides educational outreach about nutrition and healthy diets to local schools.
Salcido recalled times when she would give a talk, only to see students going to food carts selling items like ice cream and fried pork that set up outside schools after the learning day ends.
"We're working with schools not to take that option away, but to provide the option of healthy produce" through the mobile farmers markets, she said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her at Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
The Fresh Approach mobile farmers market will be at three schools on Tuesdays, with a tentative start date of May 14. Here are the times and locations.
Willow Cove Elementary School, 1880 Hanlon Way, Pittsburg, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School, 2012 Carion Court, Pittsburg 2 to 3:15 p.m.
Riverview Middle School, 205 Pacifica Ave., Bay Point, 3:45 to 4:45 p.m.
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