The Green Machine is Memphis' first mobile produce market and it's ready roll.
And on May 5 at 12:30 p.m., the public is invited to a ready-to-roll celebration at St. Patrick's Catholic Church downtown at 277 S. 4th St.
The retrofitted bus is operated by St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc., a ministry of St. Patrick's Catholic Church and will bring fresh produce to 15 underserved neighborhoods with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The Green Machine will make three stops a day, five days a week. The targeted locations are community centers, public schools, housing complexes, senior citizen facilities, recreational centers and health clinics.
The purpose of The Green Machine is to address the food security needs of Memphis and Shelby County's low-income residential communities. These areas have been labeled as food deserts because the residents in those areas have little or no access to fresh, healthy foods needed to maintain a good diet. It is estimated that more than 23 million Americans live in food deserts.
"By providing greater access to healthier foods we hope to improve the health of the residents of these neighborhoods," said Dr. Ken Reardon, a board member of St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc.
"It has taken us about a year and a half to get to this point. The need is there, and we've received several phone calls from people to request that we come to their areas. This has been a wonderful experience, and we appreciate the help of all of our volunteers and sponsors."
These statistics help detail the need and the feasibility of a mobile market:
• Tennessee ranks 47th in the nation in overall health.
• Food-related illnesses are among the top four causes of early deaths.
• National surveys have identified the Memphis region as being among the "least fit" and "most obese" in the country.
• Only 7 of the 77 high-poverty communities in Memphis and Shelby County are serviced by full-service super markets
The Green Machine is a product of several different organizations and individuals. The need for a convenient fresh food source was identified by the Vance Avenue Collaborative, but the idea for the mobile market and initial research was that of Cathy Winterburn, a long time St. Patrick's parishioner. It will be operated by St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc. with technical assistance from the University of Memphis and the Healthy Memphis Common Table.
The Green Machine bus was donated by MATA. Easy-Way, a local produce store chain will supply the produce, with the majority of it coming from local growers. Prices will be comparable, if not lower than retail stores.
The bus conversion, operations, and food purchases were made possible by donations from the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, FedEx, Bank of America, Baptist Memorial Hospital, and the Memphis Grizzlies.
The colorful mural displayed on the exterior of the bus was painted by the students of Hollis F. Price High School, community volunteers and the Memphis Grizzlies.