JACKSONVILLE, FL / November 17, 2018 – Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida is partnering with local farmers, the Jacksonville Farmers Market, regional county extension Offices, the City of Jacksonville and the Florida Department of Health to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to over 15,000 Jacksonville low income, low access residents by 2022.
The Ready 4 Veggies in Northeast Florida – Going Mobile – Farm to Community Bus Project is made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service which in addition to providing resources for fresh fruits and vegetables to key Jacksonville areas, includes marketing and business plan development, staff training, support, and messaging for public education. The Ready 4 Veggies Bus is a mobile grocery stand, working as a “Farm to community bus,” transporting farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to children and families in key low-income areas who struggle with adequate access.
Jacksonville Florida is the largest land mass city in the continental United States with 875 square miles of land area. Recent City of Jacksonville data indicates there are 177,000 food insecure individuals, including children and families, senior citizens and veterans in Duval County. These individuals are forced to spend their limited food budgets on inexpensive, canned and processed foods because fresh foods are not available. Recent studies indicate that communities which lack access to fresh, healthy foods will likely exhibit increased premature death and chronic health conditions.
With 25 Clubs across Duval and St. Johns County in key food and dessert areas, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida will use existing Clubs as Ready 4 Veggies mobile grocery stand bus stops - to reach over 5,000 children. The bus is anticipated to begin its routes sometime in March 2019 and the project will have an immediate positive impact on local community families, by creating a sustainable business model that employs local teenager.
Employed teens will learn to sell fruits and vegetables while educating community families on the benefits of healthy eating. Additional educational efforts include accessible nutrition and health information, easy-to-prepare recipes and cooking tips, marketing materials and take-home materials, all available inside the Ready 4 Veggies bus.
Before the Ready 4 Veggies bus hits the streets, an advisory committee comprised of all partnering organizations and businesses must be established to ensure the proper development of optimized and timely bus routes for produce options from Berry Good Farms, Twinn Bridges, Congaree and Penn Farms, Eat Your Yard Jax, and the farmers from the Jacksonville Farmers Market.
Weekly Ready 4 Veggie bus routes to key food dessert areas of Northeast Florida will directly benefit local farm and ranch operations serving local markets. The quick turn-around, easy scheduling, and ease of access will increase sales of produce. A win-win local market initiative.
Long-range plans include sustainable processes and partnerships that engages key community partners to make strategic decisions to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and provides low access families with education of healthy eating habits. Funds earned from fruit and vegetable sales will be funneled into local teen employee payroll, providing a sustainable employment business model for Jacksonville teens. Remaining profits will be re-invested into the program to help ensure sustainability and marketability.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida’s Woodland Acres Club will house The Ready 4 Veggies bus. Woodland Acres features a football field sized farm and is the location of Boys & Girls Clubs Annual Collard Green Festival, in Arlington. The Ready 4 Veggies in Northeast Florida – Going Mobile – Farm to Community Bus Project will be announced alongside the Ready 4 Veggies Mobile Grocery Stand at Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida’s 3rd Annual Collard Green Festival, Nov 17th, 2018, at our Woodland Acres Club, located at 191 Pecan Street, Jacksonville FL, 32211.