Bulletin feature – August 2017

East End Fruit Cart brings fresh food to underserved neighbors

Story by Andrew McKeon, the Bulletin

ABOVE: At the East End Fruit Cart in Mellon Park, Jamel Haden (left) helps customers like Lando DePaulo – and his dog Lemmy – find the right fruit on a breezy July day. Haden and his two teenage co-workers use the mobile cart to bring fresh fruit to underserved neighborhoods throughout the city’s East End. Follow the East End Fruit Cart story below. Photo by John Colombo.


East End – Last year, when Tim Lydon returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh after spending many moons living and working on farms out West, he could tell the city had serious issues with food. Not the kind of food issues we often hear about (i.e. “Breaking News: Pittsburgh loves pierogies”), but the kind that many local residents seldom even notice (i.e. food scarcity in underserved neighborhoods).

“I’m really interested in issues of food scarcity and availability here in Pittsburgh. In the East End, there are plenty of places where people have no access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Drawing on his understanding of the politics of food, Lydon decided that he could really make an impact by simply bringing fresh food to the people, in their neighborhoods.

So, he created the East End Fruit Cart, a mobile fruit stand that he tows all over the city’s East End. Alongside three teenagers who run the fruit sales, Lydon posts up at a different public venue every day – from Monday through Saturday – to engage in a new kind of community outreach.

Created by a local artist, the cart and its cantilevered drapes are fairly impressive. But, the cart itself – and even the fruit – is only part of the story. What is most impressive is the intentional commerce that is at the heart of the project. On July 24,  the Bulletin visited the fruit cart under Mellon Park’s canopy shade, near the intersection of Fifth and Penn Aves.

“We’re in Homewood and we’re in Larimer, both places that have traditionally been considered ‘food deserts,’” Lydon explained. “We’re also in Oakland, which people might not think of as a food desert. Outside of the farmers markets, there’s nowhere to buy produce in Oakland.”

In response to a question from intrepid Bulletin photographer John Colombo (“Why don’t you take the cart to local farmers markets?”), Lydon replied that he did not want to cut into any other vendor’s profits. Since the fruit cart sources its goods from local grocery stores, he said, it would be unfair to vend at farmers markets, where most vendors sell their own farm-sourced products to make a living.

When looking for funding, he sought counsel from the BGC’s Rick Flanagan, Youth Development Director, and Rick Swartz, Executive Director. Lydon was eventually able to secure “Community Development Block Grant” monies, along with some fruit donations from Trader Joe’s and a cooler from the East End Food Co-Op.

“We just got $1,000 from Eat n’ Park yesterday,” he said. “Then, there is Bridgeway Capital, which is a nonprofit lending institution that has a department devoted to issues of food scarcity. We’re meeting with them next week.”

ABOVE: Tim Lydon (left) and Jamel Haden juggle fruit and responsibilities at the East End Fruit Cart in Mellon Park. Bringing fresh fruit to underserved neighborhoods, the fruit cart project seeks to address local issues of food scarcity. Photo by John Colombo.


With the grant money on its way, the project vision called for a six-week timeline. Since Lydon could not wait any longer, he took it upon himself to kick-start the fruit cart funding.

“Most of the money still hasn’t come through yet, but I knew this project had to start on June 26. So, I just bought everything on my own credit cards,” he said with a pause. “You could say I’m pretty committed to it.”

Local teenager Jamel Haden, a former Learn & Earn program participant and current BGC employee, works with Lydon to gather data on all the fruit sales. He even learned something about his own palette. “I’d never eaten Kiwi before, but I like it now,” Haden revealed. “I thought it was bitter until I first tried it.”

He asks customers what they think about things like a “fair price” for plums (the cart’s best-seller), then enters that information into a tablet, using Square technology to track spending patterns and what fruit sells best at each location.

“One thing we’ve found is that there has to be an educational component, because people need to know how to prepare fruits and vegetables,” Lydon said. “We need to team up with someone who can teach others how to make healthier choices.”

As part of the project’s social element, Haden and his teenage coworkers at the East End Fruit Cart sat down with representatives from 1Hood, a social justice organization that uses art to raise awareness and mentor young Pittsburghers.

“[1Hood founder] Jasiri X made a real impression on the kids,” Lydon said. “One of them has already applied for an internship [at 1Hood]. You know, it’s important for the kids to meet community leaders who look like them.”

The project’s ultimate goal is to form inroads with local residents and build a network of community supported agriculture (CSA). Lydon believes this idea could create more of a laser-sharp focus on bringing food to neighborhoods that do not have access to fresh foods

“We could identify a neighborhood – for example, Homewood or Lincoln-Lemington or Larimer – and then find kids from that neighborhood to be neighborhood ambassadors,” he explained. “They’d literally be going door-to-door to ask their neighbors if they want to order fresh fruits and vegetables. So, it would be like a CSA program run by kids in each neighborhood.”

Learn more about the cart and its mobile mission to bring fresh food to East Enders at www.eastendfruitcart.com.

Click here for more stories from the August issue of the Bulletin (Vol. 42, No. 8)

 

Multiple Job Offerings

NOW HIRING!!!

Please consider the following job opportunities:

1) Immediate openings – Positions at the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation’s afterschool program at Pittsburgh Arsenal and Pittsburgh Woolslair. Up to $15 an hour depending on experience.

2) Immediate opening– Manage the Neighborhood Learning Alliance’s  “Everyone Graduates” high school program. Hourly rate of $16 to $20 an hour.

3) Anticipated March opening – Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center is seeking multiple individuals to assist with recruiting 14 to 21 year olds for the “Pittsburgh Summer Learn and Earn” employment program. Positions could lead to full time work throughout the summer. Openings in the West End and East End of Pittsburgh are anticipated.

4) Summer openings – The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation is seeking to identify as many as 5 workers that would operate its Learn and Earn Summer youth employment program.

5) Immediate opening – Garfield Jubilee Association is seeking a “Youthbuild Education Project Leader.” See the attached job description.

6) May opening – Earthen Vessels Outreach is seeking a Summer Food Program Manager. Looking to hire someone who could be a long-term hire, but for summers only.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EACH OF THESE OPPORTUNITIES, FOLLOW THIS LINK:  NOW HIRING!!!

Now Hiring: Afterschool Program Support Staff

Are you looking for a job that involves shaping young minds? Look no further because the BGC and Neighborhood Learning Alliance have just the job for you. A local afterschool program is now hiring another support staffer to attend to the academic and social needs of students from Pittsburgh Arsenal K-5 and Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5. Work afternoon hours and earn good pay while helping elementary school students boost their reading and mathematical skills. Some leadership experience is required; all candidates must pass various background checks. Click the link below to learn more about this excellent career opportunity.

Job Posting – AfterschoolSupportStaff

Summer Jobs in the Hospitality Industry

Looking for a job this summer? One of our neighbors on Evaline Street just landed a job through LGC Hospitality Staffing, a firm that orchestrates placement at work-sites like PNC Park and Heinz Field, among others. Specializing in the hospitality industry, LGC offers a number of full and part-time positions in the Pittsburgh area. Staffing manager Sara Vuich will work with each candidate to find them the right job, regardless of their background or work experience. Interested candidates seeking more information can email pittsburgh@lgcassociates.com or call 412-343-5087.

It’s Official! Garfield has a grocery store!

Aldi has announced plans to open at 5200 Penn Avenue. Neighbors have fought long and hard to bring a grocery store back to Garfield, so this news comes as quite a victory for the surrounding communities.

No more long walks up the street to buy groceries. No more relying on jitney cabs for transportation home from the store. No more “bulk trips” to stock the pantry at faraway grocers.

Now that we’ve secured a bona fide grocery store, it’s time to celebrate this positive change. Here’s a toast to all our neighbors and community members who advocated to nourish a food desert back to good health. Cheers!

Aggie Brose (Deputy Director of the BGC) celebrates with Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, and Henry Pyatt (from the Mayor's Office) at a community meeting to welcome the new Penn Avenue grocery store.

Aggie Brose (Deputy Director of the BGC) celebrates with Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, and Henry Pyatt (from the Mayor’s Office) at a community meeting to welcome the new Penn Avenue grocery store.

 

Thanks for Walking with Us!

Thanks for helping us demonstrate our community’s grocery needs yesterday! Such neighborhood support is essential to furthering our conversation about the future of 5200 Penn Avenue. We must continue joining forces to maintain this momentum, and effect real change, for a grocery store in Garfield.

If we don’t stay committed to the possibility of a Penn Avenue grocery store, then ALDI might just sell the building to the highest bidder (read: commercial developers with no stake in our community). Nobody wants another auto-parts chain popping up within a local ‘food desert,’ so please help us turn the oasis of a grocery store into a reality for Penn Avenue!IMG_20150318_180336911

 

Aldi, “Won’t you be our neighbor?”

 

Aldi is deciding whether or not to open a new grocery store at the former Bottom Dollar location (5200 Penn Avenue). We are organizing a show of support for this initiative, a demonstration of Garfield’s neighborhood buying power. Come join us this Wednesday (3/18) at 6pm.

Neighbors will congregate at the former Bottom Dollar location and proceed, en masse, walking down to the Aldi on Baum Blvd. Together, we can show Aldi just what kind of loyal customers they are missing out on if they refuse to build a store at 5200 Penn Ave. We are planning for a leisurely walk, but will also be offering transportation services as needed.

The more neighbors who walk together next week (to keep a grocery store in the community), the less distance we’ll have to walk in the future (to meet our grocery needs). Please help our neighborhood ‘turn out the tote’ bags on Wednesday. Let’s get to walking! #Walk2Aldi

For more event information, and to sign up, call 412-206-9849

ALDI flyer