Kristofer Karol, a Public Relations Specialist with Indiana University Health, takes an inside look at Garden on the Go.
I’ve been following Garden on the Go since before it started hitting Indianapolis streets in May 2011. Since then, Garden on the Go has grown from a mobile produce truck into a mobile produce program.
In the beginning, it was simple: Indianapolis has lots of “food deserts,” or areas lacking access to fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables. The answer? Let’s bring healthy foods to low-income neighborhoods in an attempt to also fight obesity and diabetes.
But I, as well as the rest of the Garden on the Go team, soon learned there was much more to be done than peddling produce.
For starters, some of our shoppers didn’t know how to prepare some of the fruits and vegetables either because they had become so accustomed to getting breakfast from a convenience store and dinner from a fast food drive through or because it had been years since they saw these foods.
The first step was bringing in experts from Purdue University’s extension program to offer recipe demos. And while education and access were important to our customers, we soon learned so, too, was healthcare. Many shoppers either didn’t have a doctor or they only visited the doctor once a year, thereby letting potential illnesses or medical issues go undetected for months.
Access to healthcare
Enter 'Talk with a Doc', where an IU School of Medicine resident visits one Garden on the Go stop every week to address general medical questions from shoppers. The residents can even write referrals and provide transportation vouchers to get shoppers to and from the doctor’s office.
At a recent stop at the John H. Boner Center, shopper Normajo Moore got her blood pressure checked. Thankfully, her numbers were fine, but Normajo even admits she can go long periods between seeing her physician.
“This is an excellent way for the customers to really kill two birds with one stone,” the 69-year-old told me.
Normajo’s even taken it upon herself to start distributing fliers on Garden on the Go to her church members because, quite simply, the program is “excellent.”
It is “excellent,” Normajo – and hopefully only the beginning of many more excellent things to come in the fight against food access, diabetes and obesity.