Fresh produce rolls in for Center Line seniors

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published September 15, 2017

CENTER LINE — The delivery was delayed an hour by traffic on the freeway Sept. 12, but eventually, two trucks rolled into the parking lot at the Center Line Park Towers, where dozens of seniors waited to receive fresh produce, milk, bread and food safety tips. 

Macomb Community Action volunteers, supported by the Michigan State University Extension, took part in the food distribution made possible through the Fresh to You mobile food pantry. The one-of-a-kind truck was donated by Ford Motor Co. and transformed into a rolling produce market with racks, a striped awning and shelving.

Linda Azar, Macomb Community Action’s division director for Children and Family Services, said the modifications to the truck were made possible by a $75,000 grant from Healthy Food Connect, a program funded by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

“This is unique for our agency. This is like a farmers market on wheels, but without the cost, because it’s free,” Azar said. “It lends a little integrity to the distribution process. They (the seniors) deserve to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Heading into the distribution stop in Center Line Sept. 12, the program had provided fresh food this summer for 634 seniors in Macomb County, where 8,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables were distributed through the Fresh to You mobile food pantry.

“Really, this is to address the fresh food access that our seniors aren’t getting,” Azar said. “They’re trying to stay independent in their homes.”

Also provided were recipes for simple and healthy easy-to-prepare meals.

Eileen Haraminac, a food safety educator with the MSU Extension, distributed refrigerator thermometers and fact sheets about safe food storage, preservation and preparation.

One tip she offered was to refrain from washing fresh produce before storage. Rather, it should be washed right before it is used, with water that is slightly warm to remove dirt and contaminants. 

“If things are stored wet, they deteriorate or can develop mold more easily,” Haraminac said. “Store them in plastic bags or containers, loosely.”

Azar said everyone in the organization at Macomb Community Action takes part in loading the truck ahead of a distribution event.

“It keeps you in touch with the people we serve,” she said.

Jessica Johnson, service coordinator at the Center Line Park Towers, said the program is popular with residents, who were given tickets to receive items including fresh tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, strawberries, milk and bread. About 300 seniors live in the complex.

Johnson said the quality of produce offered through the program has improved since it began. The Sept. 12 distribution was the second event at the site in Center Line this summer.

“(The produce) looks to be very good quality,” Johnson said.