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Mobile Market brings fresh food to Syracuse's Near West Side

Ellen Abbott
Diane Turner, right, runs a Mobile Market, which brings fresh fruits and vegetables to Syracuse's Near West Side once a week

St. Joseph’s Health is hoping fill one of the gaps left by the closing of a grocery store on Syracuse’s near west side. 

When Nojaim’s market closed last month, it left many individuals in an impoverished neighborhood, without a convenient place to shop for healthy foods. 

"Nobody wanted it to close. Especially the people in the Syracuse Housing buildings, because there’s a lot of people who could walk over there,” said Patricia Sprague, who lived across the street from Nojaim’s.

Sprague was among those who used Nojaim’s as a place to redeem food coupons as part of the St. Joseph’s Diabetes Self-Management Program. Diabetes educator and nutritionist Lisa Yarah says these food coupons have been vital in helping individuals manage their diet, and lessen complications from diabetes.

“I would say the most challenging thing is how to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables when the cost of fruits and vegetables is so cost prohibitive for them,” said Yarah. “That’s why we have this program, so we can augment that cost for them.”

But with Nojaim’s closed, it became more difficult. That’s when St. Joseph’s decided to invite the Mobile Market to the neighborhood.

Now after class, individuals can use their food vouchers to pick up lettuce, apples, squash, and all sorts of fresh produce.    

“For every class they attend, they get a certain amount in coupons for fresh fruits or vegetables, so after class they come out and use the coupons and purchase the fruits and vegetables, said Yarah.

Diane Turner runs the Farm Fresh Mobile Market as part of an interfaith community organization, selling produce in food deserts for nine years now.

“A lot of the areas, they just don’t have the fresh produce they need,” said Turner.

Now the Mobile Market will be selling in what used to be the parking lot of Nojaim’s once a week. Sprague is glad because she can continue the success she’s made in her diabetes education class.

“In the last four months, I’ve lost 20 pounds. And that was like really awesome for me,” said Sprague.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.