INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - If affordability is your excuse for not eating vegetables, then Garden on the Go is for you. It's a Marion County-wide program operated by IU Health with the goal of getting more produce into the hands of those without easy access to affordable fruits and vegetables.
"The idea started back in early 2010," says Lisa Cole, Manager of Indianapolis Community Outreach for IU Health. "One of the primary needs we have in our state is obesity prevention, so we were looking for strategies that could impact that."
Garden on the Go is a year-round, mobile produce program designed to improve access to affordable fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods of need in Marion County. The program is also the nation's first mobile produce program to be launched by a health care organization.
According to the Indiana State Department of Health , 29 percent of adolescents and 65 percent of adults in Indiana are obese or overweight. Less than 25 percent of Marion County residents eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, which contributes to Indiana's high rates of obesity for both adults and adolescents.
"Our status is the eighth most obese state in the country so we need to find innovative solutions and share that information and get it out there," says Cole.
Garden on the Go operates indoors Monday through Friday, year-round, stopping at 19 locations at set times each week . All stops are indoors and are set up like a mini-farmer's market.
"We just take everything in to each stop that we go to now," says Kyle Edgell, the Crew Leader for Garden on the Go. "We set up for about 40 or 45 minutes, serve as many people as can come through in that time, and then we stay on schedule and go to the next stop, because we have four in a day."
"We have a great partner in Green Bean Delivery -- a well established mobile grocery store business," says Cole. "They're very knowledgeable in this field of how to buy produce at an affordable cost. So, we contract with them to purchase our produce and manage our operations and they utilize a local produce distributor [Indy Fruit] who has a regional and national reach. So, we can get produce in season and that enables to keep the costs lower."
The cost savings are significant. IU Health estimates the average Garden on the Go purchase is $7. For example, $7 with Garden on the Go can buy a pound of green beans, a pound of tomatoes, a pound of bananas, three pounds of potatoes, a bunch of greens, a head of lettuce, a couple of apples and a couple of oranges.
When the program first launched in May 2011, it operated four days a week with a total of 12 stops. Now, almost two years later, the program operates 5 days a week with a total of 22 different locations. Due to a generous financial gift from the Indianapolis Foundation , an affiliate of CICF, Garden on the Go is now operating bi-weekly Tuesday stops at locations listed here .
The mobile vegetable stops are open to anyone, regardless of income. The program accepts cash, credit cards and food stamps (SNAP/EBT) are accepted.
Indiana State Police officials are reminding the public that abandoned vehicles left on interstates will be towed before this week's winter weather arrives.
A winter weather advisory is in effect for Central Indiana through Friday night. Southern counties will be under a winter storm warning beginning Thursday night through Friday night.
Employees at some Indianapolis fast food restaurants took part in a 100-city strike Thursday morning.