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More fresh produce coming to Chicago’s ‘food deserts’

U.S. Dept Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks Sun-Times Editorial Board about: healthy food access food deserts his supportMichelle Obama's Let's

U.S. Dept of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to the Sun-Times Editorial Board about: healthy food access, food deserts, his supportof Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative and efforts to improve theintegrity of the food stamp program (now called SNAP). | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 10, 2012 6:06AM

Chicago is reaping the benefits of the Obama administration’s healthy-food initiatives, announcing Friday a partnership between the CTA and a non-profit to bring fruits and vegetables to Chicago’s South Side “food deserts,” which officials said will double the number of people now being served.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $45,000 award Friday to Fresh Moves, a non-profit service that brings produce via a “Mobile Market Bus” to the West Side, serving about 8,500 people.

A second bus will now be added, under the grant, that’s expected to boost the number of people served to 17,000. The second bus should start operating in the fall, said Steven Casey, a co-founder and board president of Fresh Moves, which is featured in Michelle Obama’s new book,

American Grown , about the White House Kitchen Garden.

Casey said Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s call for four more buses, for a total of six, could meet the city’s food-access challenge.

The Chicago Transit Authority is donating the second bus that Fresh Moves will use, as well as an unlimited supply of spare parts for whenever repairs are needed, according to Emanuel and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who announced the news Friday while visiting Inspiration Kitchens, which trains ex-convicts, the homeless and long-term unemployed in culinary skills.

Fresh Moves, which gets much of its food from local growers and distributors, also is using a state grant to offer shoppers who use food stamps via the LINK program a 50 percent discount on fresh produce.

Three community activists — Casey, Jeff Pinzino and Sheelah Muhammad — started Fresh Moves to offer residents of the Austin and North Lawndale neighborhoods better access to healthy foods at affordable prices. On the bus, shoppers can pick up free recipe cards for healthy dishes and reduced-price leafy green vegetables, apples, bananas, grapes, pears, plums, strawberries and other fresh produce.

A schedule of the bus’ current stops is at . Emanuel said the Fresh Moves expansion complements the City Council’s approval for fresh-food carts to sell fruits and vegetables in under-served neighborhoods, the opening of five new farmer’s markets on the West Side and the openings of drug stores and small-format grocery stores in the food deserts, where people have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

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