Phila. families brave the rain for fresh produce

PHILADELPHIA - August 25, 2011

The "Fresh for All" program serves 12 sites in the tri-state area on a weekly basis.

Heavy rain did little to discourage people from seeking out fresh produce in the long lines at the Houseman Recreation Center at Summerdale and Godfrey Avenues in Northeast Philadelphia.

Like a traveling Farmer's Market, "Fresh For All" returns to Summerdale and Godfrey Avenues on the same day at the same time every week, offering free groceries to families in need.

It comes with a truck full of fresh produce, bananas, peppers, corn, tomatoes and cucumbers.

"It's an extremely successful program," said Philabundance President Bill Clark. People love the produce, and even with the rain, the line is about 200 families long."

In a challenging economy, there is a huge need for food all across America, and "Fresh for All" makes a big difference in the Philadelphia area.

"It is a very nice program, and I thank God for that," said Maricile Francois. "Everybody should be happy, everybody should be thankful."

"Right now, I'm in a financial mess like most of American, and not having to purchase certain things on a weekly basis does help a lot," said Hope Matles.

The program targets some of the region's most vulnerable neighborhoods where there are often few grocery stores.

36% of the households it serves include the elderly, and more than 40% include children.

"A lot of the children have never seen peppers before," said Clark. "It allows us to get the vegetables that are getting more costly in the supermarkets."

The goal is to provide each family with five pounds of food each week, with the emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

"When a family is economically stressed, the first thing that leaves the diet; that leaves their menu is fresh produce. People reserve the money for the things they can buy and stockpile," said Clark.

"It's a necessity, and it keeps the kids happy and healthy and growing the right way," says Sara Checchia.

Since Philabundance launched its "Fresh For All" program, it has distributed nearly 6 million pounds of fresh produce.

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