Veggie Van Fights Food Insecurity


On a sweltering hot day in June, more than 70 families lined up at the Tampa YMCA’s Veggie Van to receive a bag of fresh produce in Wimauma, a mostly rural community situated about 30 miles away from Tampa.


The Veggie Van, a mobile market place, increases access to fresh fruits and vegetables to the working poor and those living below the poverty line. Increased access means fewer individuals living in food deserts will go hungry. Food deserts are urban neighborhoods without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.


“We go straight into the neighborhoods to help provide that traditional wellness,” says Program Director Elizabeth Roman. “We bring a variety of fruits and vegetables that are prepacked by volunteers, usually four fruits and four vegetables, in each bag and thanks to the generosity of our donors, the families only pay $1.”


Families can also purchase an additional bag if needed. Bank of America, which presented a $25,000 donation to the Tampa Y on June 20th, is one of several generous donors that make programs like this possible.


“Bank of America is proud to partner with the Tampa YMCA on its Veggie Van program. Supporting programs working to alleviate food insecurity is core to our mission of driving economic mobility and creating pathways to success,” says Melissa Fields, Bank of America’s Community Relations Manager for Tampa Bay.


Bernarda Martinez and her three children, ages 5, 8 and 12, live in Wimauma. Her family has been benefitting from the Veggie Van for the past year. “This is an especially hard time because we don’t have work and so now we’re at home with our kids for the summer. It’s meant a lot to us,” adding her children actually like eating fruits and veggies like oranges, apples and broccoli.


On average, about 150 bags are sold at each stop. Other Veggie Van stops include Sulphur Springs, Tampa Heights, Plant City, Dover and Lacoochee. “The response is overwhelming,” says Elizabeth. “Families love to come out to the program. Our main goal is retention so every time we come up we try to build a relationship with the families to make sure that they know this is a safe place for them to come and they’re okay to return.”


Individuals or families do not need to be affiliated with the Y in order to receive food from the Veggie Van. More volunteers and funds are always needed. Click here for more information.


Pictured on home page: Bernarda Martinez and one of her children pose for a photo after receiving their bags of healthy produce from the Tampa Y’s Veggie Van.

Pictured above: Bank of America Representatives present a Veggie Van donation to Tampa Y leadership. (L to R: Tampa Y CDO W. Scott Barnhard, Veggie Van Program Director Elizabeth Roman; Tampa YMCA President & CEO Matt Mitchell, Bank of America Community Relations Manager Melissa Fields, Bank of America Sr. VP & South Tampa Y Advisory Board Chair Jack Heiss and Tampa Y Wellness Executive Jenny Beadle. 

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