Green Umbrella = Green Produce
By Katie Martin
When I first got to Washington Heights, it was challenging navigating where to buy food. You’ve got your bodegas, convenience stores, fast food chains, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Plenty of places to grab a quick bite or some basic foods, right? But when purchasing apples at Gristedes means spending $10 every week, I was open to seeing what other options for produce are around. I quickly noticed a smattering of carts in the neighborhood, adorned with green umbrellas and overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits. Have you spotted them too? There’s usually one parked and ready on Broadway and 169th. Loving the fact that they seemed to have great deals on fresh produce, I wanted to learn more about what they were about and where they came from. My first theory was that people trucked in produce to sell for cheap on the street and avoid all the red-tape of dealing with the authorities. This actual isn’t the case.
After talking with a few vendors near CUMC and sleuthing online, I was able to connect the dots. The carts with the green umbrellas are legit. Greet Carts were legally enacted with Local Law 9, signed by Mayor Bloomberg on March 13, 2008. Every vendor has a mobile food vending license ($50) and a Green Cart permit ($75). These Green Carts can only sell raw fruits and veggies. No frozen and processed produce allowed. Their mission is to improve access to fresh produce in underserved areas of NYC. The number breakdown for Green Carts in the boroughs of NYC is 350 for Brooklyn, 350 for the Bronx, 150 for Manhattan, 100 for Queens, and 50 for Staten Island. Even though the program is relatively new, hints to positive lifestyle changes within the communities with these carts have been seen.
Since the law was enacted in 2008, a 2010 survey showed a significant increase in the percentage of adults in the targeted boroughs that reported eating 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables in the previous day. From 2004 to 2010, surveys of individuals in NYC exhibited a significant decrease in the percentage of individuals eating no vegetables or fruits. In addition, in September 2011, the Green Cart program received almost double the amount of applications for Green Carts than they could accept. Granted change can be slow, but these statistics are indicators that changing accessibility and visibility of fresh produce can do wonders. If you’re interested in learning more or seeing if there’s a Green Cart on a street near you, definitely check out the NYC Department of Health website.
Next time you spot a cart with a green umbrella and some bananas, feel free to pick up one or two and support the movement of making fruit and vegetables readily accessible to the NYC population. I felt like I won the lottery when I bought a quart of strawberries for $1 a week ago. That could be you.
Stay tuned for more food discoveries and exercise adventures in the City from yours truly.