SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - There are barriers in some neighborhoods to healthy eating, whether they are the cost of food or easy access to grocery stores.
The WTOC Community Champions at the West Broad Street YMCA in Savannah are helping people on the west side get free fruits and vegetables through an expanding program.
“We just want to give our heart to the community, because that is our heart."
At the West Broad Street YMCA, they are doing that by giving out food that is good for the heart, brain, and whole body, as part of the Y’s Fresh Express Program.
On the third Friday of every month, they put out free produce and invite folks from the neighborhood to fill up two bags to take home.
“This area definitely could be considered a food dessert, so having this access here - even if it’s just once a month - is really important to make sure that even if it is just that one time, people have access to these fresh fruits and vegetables that we sometimes take for granted if we are in areas that aren’t considered food desserts,” said Hillary Bradbury, YMCA of Coastal Georgia.
The Y recently extended Fresh Express to the west side because shopping options are limited there.
“You would have to walk to Kroger, catch a bus, any type of transportation, but also as a way to help fill in holes that exist in local diets,” said west side Savannah resident, Kasheam Brantley.
“We’re noticing that the income gap is choosing between paying the rent or buying food, so we wanted to make sure that barrier wasn’t of existence,” said Deidre Grim, Reach Nutrition, Assistant Program Manager. “We started three years ago distributing food in a program called Fresh Express at the Curtis V Cooper Primary Health Center on the East Side of town as part of ‘Everybody Eats Fresh Free Friday,’ and then we realized there was still a very big need on the west side of town."
Once a month, the Community Champions at the West Broad YMCA help meet that need - and even expand food tastes - all for free.
“We never know exactly what we’re going to have when we do our shopping in the morning, but we always try to make sure we have things that are fresh, things that are more comfortable like broccoli and carrots and greens, and then we add in some exciting things when we can. This time, we had a bunch of pineapples and we always try to bring something new. Pineapples, we had kohlrabi out here one day to really bring exposure to some of those lesser-known fruits and vegetables.”
The Y’s Fresh Express Program is offered in partnership with REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health); a program that is funded by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.