TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — It didn't take Claudia DeMello long to fill her grocery bag full of fruits and vegetables as she shopped at the new Wabash Valley Mobile Market during its inaugural stop Tuesday morning.
She carefully inspected, and then selected, bananas, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, spinach and more.
"I'm trying to stock up a little bit," she told the Tribune-Star (http://bit.ly/17saKeI ). She was running out of fresh produce at home.
DeMello was among the first customers at the Mobile Market, which had its first stop at the Lockport Housing Complex in Terre Haute. Other stops Tuesday took place at Dreiser Square and Union Hospital.
The mobile market, a United Way of the Wabash Valley initiative, is a traveling market that will take fresh produce to neighborhoods in Terre Haute and West Terre Haute. It will make weekly stops in designated locations.
Prices should be very competitive, United Way officials say, and all stops are open to the public.
"I love it. I think it's great," DeMello said. "It will save me a lot of trips to the store."
She takes the city bus to get around, and prices for produce are higher at the grocery store she often frequents.
The idea, said United Way executive director Troy Fears, is to provide healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables to people who may not be able to get out and get to the grocery store on a regular basis. "We really think it will help a lot of people in Terre Haute."
Norbert Gottschling is the mobile market coordinator. "Healthy eating has always been a passion of mine," said Gottschling, who used to operate Market Bella Rosa in downtown Terre Haute.
He jumped at the chance to oversee the mobile market program, which is dedicated to "putting healthy foods into people's hands in a convenient setting," he said.
The program is part of a United Way initiative that targets obesity and chronic obesity-related diseases.
The mobile market aims to serve people who may be challenged economically or those with limited mobility, either because they don't have a car or are unable to drive.
Prices will vary week to week "based on what we have to pay for produce," Gottschling said. "We buy from the same wholesaler as Baesler's uses."
In the future, Gottschling hopes to have recipe cards, and he'll even do some prep and cutting demonstrations.
Also checking out the mobile market Tuesday was Amy Estep. "I think it's cool," she said. "It will help out a lot." She doesn't have a car and has to rely on transportation provided by a friend to go grocery shopping.
She has two children, ages 9 and 6, who like fruit — and the mobile market will make it easier for her to make sure they don't run out of that. On Tuesday, the mobile market offered bananas, apples, grapes and grapefruit. It even had large pumpkins for $4.
This month the mobile market will visit eight sites each week, and in November, eight more will be added.
Each site will be visited once each week on the same day and at the same time.
A pickup truck pulls an 18-foot trailer to each location. Patrons can step through the back door and work their way to the front and check out.
Patricia McGee, Terre Haute Housing Authority property manager at Lockport Housing, said of the mobile market, "I think it's going to be wonderful. Here it is parked in the complex, and all they have to do is walk out their door."
Patrons won't have to spend money to travel to the grocery store. Also, the fresh produce will "promote a healthy lifestyle," she said.
The mobile market is funded in part through a grant obtained by the Indiana Association of United Ways along with area sponsors. The lead sponsor is Union Hospital, and others are the Vigo County Health Department, Regional Hospital, Indiana State University and Clabber Girl.
Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com