photo: Alyssa Castro
by Jesus Perez
Ed Note: Though the Central Valley is known worldwide as an agricultural mecca, many communities here do not have easy access to the fresh fruits and vegetables that surround them in abundance. In fact, some would call areas of Merced “ food deserts” for the lack of access to fresh and affordable produce. This invariably takes a toll on resident’s health, and their wallets.
Jesus, 18, examines a bright spot amongst the blight: Produce On The Go, a food truck that has begun to bring fruits and vegetables to neglected communities.
My old neighborhood of Beachwood is about three miles from the closest supermarket. There are only two corner stores that sell produce, and they are usually overpriced, have a small selection, and sometimes that produced isn’t refrigerated. Some people are forced to buy this food because they do not have transportation to go shop elsewhere.
But as of November 2013, my neighborhood and others like it have a new option: the Produce On The Go truck.
The truck sells produce and other groceries, purchasable by cash, credit, and even
EBT cards, at schools and health centers across Merced County. Produce On The Go targets socioeconomically distressed areas of Merced County: Winton, South Merced, Planada, Le Grand, Dos Palos, Snelling, Santa Nella, and, most recently, Atwater, and stays at each location for three hours on average.
“It basically comes to us,” said Cristal Perez, a regular food truck customer. Perez also added that she thinks the prices at the food truck are better than the grocery stores.
“We try to sell our products at a low price. We also give away quite a bit,” said Produce On The Go Project Director, Donald Bergman.
During one of my visits to the truck, it was stationed outside of the Golden Valley Health Center in South Merced. A young boy approached the truck and asked Bergman if the food was free. Bergman replied “No.” After hesitating a bit, he proceeded to tell the boy to pick a fruit. By this time, the father, who had a leg in a cast, approached the truck as well. The boy picked up an apple and stepped towards the cashier with his father. Bergman quietly declined to charge the two for the apple.
“I don’t want to see somebody walk away without something to eat just because they don’t have money,” said Bergan.