Nightly News   |  August 07, 2011

The veggies on the bus go 'eat, eat, eat'

In many urban neighborhoods it's hard to find supermarkets selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Which is why in one neighborhood, vegetables take the bus. NBC's John Yang reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

CARL QUINTANILLA, anchor: Finally tonight, in many cities across the country there's something that's especially hard to find, a supermarket selling fresh food. And experts say these so-called food deserts are a serious health issue. In Chicago , one innovative idea is making a difference. We get our report tonight from NBC 's John Yang .

JOHN YANG reporting: In this gritty neighborhood on Chicago 's West Side , fresh fruits and vegetables take the bus. What did you get today?

Unidentified Woman #1: I got greens.

Ms. DOLORES BARNEY: Greens.

YANG: Can you show us?

Woman #1: Corn.

YANG: Oh, wow, look at those greens.

Unidentified Man: I got a honeydew melon and green tomatoes.

Unidentified Woman #2: I got bananas and corn.

YANG: This retired Chicago transit bus stops here once a week, a produce market on wheels selling items often hard to come by in urban neighborhoods like this one cross the country. Liquor stores and convenience stores dot the streets selling processed foods that may not provide the healthiest of diets.

Mr. STEVEN CASEY (Fresh Moves Co-Founder): What you can't find is an affordable quality set of fruits and vegetables in these communities on a 365 day basis.

YANG: Supermarkets are miles away. Studies estimate that 31 million Americans live in these so-called food deserts.

Ms. MARI GALLAGHER (Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group): Residents of the food desert are more likely to die and suffer prematurely from diet-related conditions such as diabetes, certain kinds of cancers, actually, cardiovascular disease.

YANG: Steven Casey lives in a food desert , but he has a car. For those who don't, he decided if people can't get to the fresh food, he'd find a way to take it to them.

Unidentified Woman #3: We have watermelon, bananas.

Mr. CASEY: It's a civil right that I ought to be able to eat healthy, and that if I have it on the North Side or on the near West Side or on the near South Side or downtown, then why can't I have it over here?

YANG: So he helped start Fresh Moves . After spending four years raising money, the group bought a bus from the Chicago Transit Authority for $1 and then spent $50,000 repairing it and turning it into a produce section on wheels. Twice a week it loads up with fresh fruits and vegetables and visits six different sites on Chicago 's West Side . For Dolores Barney it's a reminder of the days when there was plenty of fresh food on sale in this neighborhood .

Ms. BARNEY: We had it almost in every block, but that's been years ago.

YANG: A day that organizers hope this bus will deliver to more and more neighborhoods year round. John Yang , NBC News, Chicago .