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)

 

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

The Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania and Goodwill Team Up for the “Give A Little Love” Holiday Clothing Drive & Community Service Project December 1 – December 31, 2015

Beginning on Dec. 1, two well-known and well-respected nonprofit organizations, the Girls Scouts Western Pennsylvania and Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, are teaming up this year for the holidays. Together, they will conduct the “Give A Little Love” Holiday Clothing Drive and Community Service Project during the month of December. Girl Scouts will be collecting gently used items for donation to Goodwill for the winter months when donations are needed most. Items donated will be sold in Goodwill stores to support the agency’s mission to provide job training and education to help people with barriers to gain employment.

“We are so very pleased to work with the Girl Scouts on this donation drive project,” said Danielle Hardy, Community Donations Specialist at Goodwill SWPA. “They have been a wonderful partner of Goodwill for decades because of their commitment to the community.  Their support this year is greatly needed.”

During the “Give A Little Love” Holiday Clothing Drive and Community Service Project, Girl Scouts will distribute donation bags to family, friends and other partners throughout the community. Later, they will collect the donation bags and deliver them to their local Goodwill store and donation center by December 31st. Goodwill SWPA and the Girls Scouts Western Pennsylvania are calling on the public to support the project by cleaning out their closets to help to Girl Scouts fill the donation bags.

Participating Girl Scouts will have the opportunity to earn a patch provided by Goodwill recognizing their fulfillment of community service. Additionally, the top three Girl Scouts who collect the most donations will win a paid trip to camp; courtesy of Goodwill SWPA.

“Thanks to local organizations like Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Girl Scouts have opportunities to keep their promise to help others and make the world a better place,” said Patricia A. Burkart, CEO of Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.  “Even our youngest Girl Scouts in kindergarten can participate in this project, putting them on a path of service and engagement that will last their entire lives.”

For more information on the Give A Little Love Holiday Clothing Drive and Community Service Project, or to receive general information about how to partner with Goodwill on a community donation drive, visit www.goodwillswpa.org/host-donation-drive or contact Danielle Hardy at 412-632-1875 or danielle.hardy@goodwillswpa.org.

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.

Arsenal 360 Night

Get ready for a special family fun night at Arsenal Elementary and Arsenal Middle School on Wednesday, May 6th at 5:30 PM. In partnership with A+ Schools and the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the PEP Rally Program will be  jointly hosting Arsenal 360 Night, a special evening designed to celebrate diversity and showcase the many stories and cultures of Arsenal families. This event has been made possible through the Sprout Fund’s Global Switchboard Community of Practice grant.  Everyone is encouraged to extend this invitation to other families and anyone else who might be interested in this multicultural event. Below are some flyers printed in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, and Arabic!

 

Arsenal360Night_English

Arsenal360Night_Spanish

Arsenal360Night_Chinese

Arsenal360Night_French

Arsenal360Night_Arabic

Join us for an end-of-summer celebration!

summeryouth

Tamere Lester and Wes Davis enjoy a field trip to a Pirates game as part of the Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program.

The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation (BGC) and Neighborhood Learning Alliance (NLA) will host a “Celebration of Success” event at 3 p.m. on Aug. 15 at the BGC’s youth development office, 5321 Penn Ave.

This event will celebrate the 300+ young adults who participated this summer in NLA’s Reading Warriors program, which employs high school students to serve as reading mentors for children, and the BGC’s Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program, which gave many young adults their first work experiences in conjunction with the City of Pittsburgh. Continue reading

Student Career Week

The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (3RWIB) has announced plans for its 7th annual Imagine! Career Week, being held from April 22-26. Sponsored by Citizens Bank Foundation, Imagine! Career Week celebrates the diversity of career opportunities available in the Pittsburgh region and helps students consider a wide range of career fields. Imagine! Career Week encourages exploration of career pathways through workplace tours, job shadowing, interactions with employers at job fairs, playing with equipment and tools at trade union training centers, building a robot or attendance at a youth leadership conference. A full schedule of events is available on the website.