AZ Giving and Leading: Fresh Express

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We’ll show you how fresh fruits and vegetables are being bussed in to residents in South Phoenix and Tempe, where there is not much access to healthy produce.

Ted Simons: In tonight's edition of Arizona Giving and Leading, fresh fruits and vegetables are a part of a balanced diet, but for many in one Phoenix neighborhood, those simple items are too expensive or unavailable. That is, until now. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Juan Magana introduce us to the Fresh Express.

Shana Fischer: Every Thursday afternoon, a different kind of bus pulls into the parking lot at Crockett Elementary. The Fresh Express is a city bus that's been converted into a mobile produce stand. It's a welcome sight for the 600 students who live in the area, and whose parents struggle on a daily basis to provide enough food. According to Balsz District Superintendent Jeff Smith, 90% of the students qualify for free lunch.

Jeff Smith: We live in a food desert, which means that there aren't easy ways for people to get fresh produce in their area. They end up going to convenience stores, or to fast food restaurants for their food, and that's just not healthy.

Shana Fischer: The bus is the brainchild of the discovery triangle development corporation. Its goal is to revitalize a 25-square-mile area that stretches from downtown Phoenix to downtown Tempe. The bus kicked off operations in March, and corporation President Don Keuth says the response is overwhelming.

Don Keuth: The reaction has been fantastic. The parents that have come, the staff and the faculty of the schools, the seniors that we've served, this is a godsend to them. It brings them stuff that they just don't get general access to.

Shana Fischer: Inside the refrigerated bus are dozens of bins filled with donated vegetables and fruit from peddlers sons, a produce distributor. You can find everything from peppers, to melons.

Don Keuth: Well we would say that we provide not only very fresh and healthy food, but we do it at a very affordable price. So we have been able to price this in a way that it's all kind of piecemeal, we don't have to weigh things, so we can give, we'll sell three avocados for $1, three tomatoes for $1.

Shana Fischer: For many families, it's not just economics that makes food shopping challenging. Many don't have transportation, so having the food come to them is crucial.

Marco Cazares: Well I would say it's the best thing in life. You know it's where you can go, pick out your favorite foods, and smell what you like and have the most part of fun picking out the fruits and vegetables you like.

Shana Fischer: And Keuth says the bus is the key ingredient in the recipe to long-term success for these kids.

Don Keuth: You know one of the benefits of this is if we can help some kids eat healthier foods, have a healthier lifestyle, that may translate into being a better student. And by being a better student their outcome in life can change.

Ted Simons: The Fresh Express stops at several other schools in the Balsz district, along with a number of senior centers. The Fresh Express just received approval to accept snap's EBT cards and there are plans to offer mobile health clinics in the future.

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