A new kind of food truck is coming to Prince George’s County to help promote healthy eating in a number of communities considered food deserts.
The refrigerated truck, filled with locally grown vegetables, fruit, dairy, meats and fish, may help increase access to quality, healthy food for residents in areas where options are limited.
Curbside Groceries is a mobile food partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank and local grocery stores.
“What we are doing is bring groceries to the neighborhoods that have challenges accessing good nutrition,” said Radha Muthiah, president of the Capital Area Food Bank. “We know that when good quality groceries is brought to people, that is what they choose to consume.”
The food is not free, but it is affordable and accessible. According to the food bank, a family of four can eat for a week from the truck for $35. Shoppers will receive recipes and a shopping list to help them stick to a budget while preparing healthy food.
The county is still working out its schedule, but the truck is expected to go to communities that are considered food deserts at least three times per week. The county is going to provide information on where to go when the program begins.
Grace Hill, a Prince George’s County resident, lives in one of the several food deserts in the area. She refuses to shop in the one grocery store in her neighborhood; instead, she drives to Virginia for a better selection.
“I don’t buy in this community,” Hill said. “My daughter and I ride out to Fairfax or the Giant on South Capitol Street near Southern Avenue. The selections are far greater.”
These food deserts, or areas with limited access to healthy food options, were not uncommon before the pandemic, but the circumstances brought on by COVID-19 worsened the situation for many.
“Even before the pandemic, we had the highest food desert,” said George Askew, chief administrative officer of Health and Human Services. “More than 50% are fast food options.”
The county's food insecurity problem was made plain at the height of the COVID pandemic, and it hasn't changed as thousands continue to line up for free food distributions.
When the food truck begins operations, one of its stops will be near Hill’s home, possibly saving her a long drive and freezer space.
“I would love to be able to go to two blocks away from home and buy groceries, but the selections are not good,” Hill said.
So until her local food bank begins offering a mobile option, she says she’ll continue making her cross-state drive.
“Monday the first,” Hill said, “we’ll go out to Virginia to buy.”