Changing the way you think about food: Two organizations making healthy food access a reality in more neighborhoods throughout Savannah

SAVANNAH, Ga.

Taking a trip to the grocery store–

For most of  us, it’s just another thing on our “to-do” list…

But– if you live in certain neighborhoods in Chatham County, going to the grocery store may not be something you can do so easily…

Instead, the only options you have nearby could only be convenience stores.

But what if you and your family are seeking healthier options?

News 3’s Courtney Cole did some digging to find some fresh alternatives surfacing in Savannah.

“It almost feels like you’re trapped…”

Trapped inside your own neighborhood.

That’s how it feels to Eleanor Collins and to many others that don’t have a grocery store within walking distance of their homes.

“…you have to wait a long time, and it’s a whole big ordeal, takes all day to plan it out..and if you don’t plan it out right, you’re ending up at home with no food…so it’s a lot of work…”

A lot of work the mother of three says she was doing for five years–without a car.

“At one point, we built a cart for our bicycle, so that we could haul a week’s worth of groceries home, trailing it behind our bike, and that worked for a while…but it doesn’t work when it’s raining or when it’s really cold…so the only other option is a convenience store that’s a block away from my house…we can buy chips and soda and beer and cigarettes…there’s like a Chinese food place and there use to be a fried chicken place, but they closed. So there’s not really a whole lot of options within walking distance.”

That’s why Collins is so grateful that organizations like Farm Truck 912, an extension of the Forsyth Farmer’s Market, are now easily available in her neighborhood.

“It’s very affordable and a lot of times, cheaper than going to the grocery store, for the quality of the produce especially…and it’s so close you can walk here and you’re not spending the money on a cab or giving someone gas money to give you a ride, pick you up,” Collins told News 3.

And that’s because Farm Truck 912 is now driving into neighborhoods on the East and West sides of Savannah every week.

“Those neighborhoods were specifically chosen based on data and research of neighborhoods that are dealing with severe poverty, food insecurity and unemployment,” said Cyndi Satlow, the Forsyth Farmer’s Market Project Manager.

Satlow says her teams see this as an opportunity to improve the quality of life for people in communities throughout the city with healthier options–and they jumped at the chance!

“Healthy food access is extremely important because we’re talking about our overall health. We’re finding a direct correlation to what we’re putting in our bodies and our physical outcome,” Satlow said.

But change isn’t only coming through selling the fresh produce…

“We have great education on the truck where we’re sampling products, we’re getting people to try things, we’re having a beautiful conversation around food and nutrition and health,” said Satlow.

Not only talking, but developing a new relationship with healthy foods.

“So we’re really trying to make a change in the mentality in healthy food,” Satlow told News 3.

And what do convenience store owners and mangers have to say about this?

Well, I reached out to more than a dozen and they all declined to talk to me on-camera.

But there is one food-gas mart chain that’s changing the their approach.

You may know them as “Enmark”, but over the last 6-months they’ve shifted to what they call “Enmarket.”

And the vice president of the company says he’s looking to do more than just sell products.

“It’s really brought together a different cross section of the community of people who are really interested in evolving more toward health,” said Ryan Chandler the Vice President of Enmark.

So why aren’t more convenience stores going this route?

Chandler tells me he thinks it all comes down to money…

“I think the trick is…a lot of people make the mistake of just dipping their toe in a little bit…and when it doesn’t sell in the first couple of weeks, they say, ‘oh, customers don’t want it, they’re just saying it, they don’t really want it’, well you really have to commit to it.”

It’s a commitment that some store owners may feel is just too expensive to take on, but Chandler says you can’t put a dollar amount on the the changes you can make in people’s lives.

If you live in a neighborhood that you think is in desperate need of a grocery store, let your voice be heard and contact your city leaders by clicking here: Contact your City Leaders

More information about Farm Truck 912 and their truck stop locations: http://bit.ly/219HSlW

Click here to learn more about the EnMarket initiative: http://bit.ly/1LupOK1

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