veggies to the people: (l-r) EJ Krans and Tim Koch.
PHOTO: Chris Shields
project aims to make fresh produce available and affordable
in the Capital Region’s low-income neighborhoods
executive director of Troy-based Capital District Community
Gardens, was thumbing through a magazine a few years ago when
she happened across an article about a mobile grocery store
in Oakland, Calif.
it was a neat idea that they were taking grocery items into
inner-city neighborhoods to service those neighbors. I thought,
wouldn’t it be great if we could do something like that with
produce, because we’re interested in fresh fruits and vegetables.
That’s what our focus is,” she said. “I clipped the article
that I had seen in the magazine, and I thought if funding
ever came up that maybe we could give that a try.”
years later, what began as an abstract idea has been realized
thanks to a 15-year grant from the New York State Department
of Health that became available during 2005. For more than
one month now, the aptly named Veggie Mobile has cruised along
Capital Region streets bringing wholesale-priced produce to
low-income neighborhoods in Albany, Schenectady and Troy.
phenomenal,” Klein said, describing residents’ response to
the Veggie Mobile project. “It’s really beyond our wildest
expectations. I really thought it was going to take people
a while to get used to the idea. I didn’t think people were
really going to know what to make of it, you know, maybe be
a little suspicious of it and think it was kind of kooky.”
week, the Veggie Mobile makes regularly scheduled stops—three
in Troy and two each in Albany and Schenectady—on Thursdays,
Fridays and Saturdays. Since the Veggie Mobile’s inaugural
run back in mid April, the number of customers has quadrupled,
Klein said, from about 50 to 400 per week.
focus of the program is to bring fresh fruits and vegetables
into low-income areas that are not being served by full- service
supermarkets,” Klein explained.
Friday (May 25), the Veggie Mobile was parked outside the
most frequented of the two stops in Albany, St. Sophia Greek
Orthodox Church on Whitehall Road. From here, the nearest
full-service grocery store is nearly two miles away.
before the box truck pulled into the parking lot, customers
were waiting. Others were en route, on foot from the apartment
complex that’s adjacent to St. Sophia.
side of the truck, a doorway and steps served as the entrance.
A chalkboard affixed to the open door revealed the day’s prices
for the produce, which is purchased through the Menands Market,
a regional cooperative farmers’ market and wholesaler. Once
local growers begin producing, Klein said produce also would
be purchased directly from these sources.
to try to buy as much as we can locally to help the local
economy,” she added.
at St. Sophia, boxes of kiwi, squash, strawberries and limes
lined shelving units arranged in an L shape against two of
the walls. Two top-open refrigerator units contained additional
the back of the box, a scale and register were set up, allowing
customers to make their payment—even food stamps are accepted—and
proceed down a ramp from the back of the truck to the parking
customers, the majority of whom were elderly women, perused
the shelves inside, David Verner stood outside the truck and
pointed up at the solar panels fastened to the top. Verner,
who provided the equipment and time necessary to install the
truck’s solar-power system, is one of the several individuals
that helped make the Veggie Mobile become a reality through
material and monetary donations that were used to cover the
project’s start-up costs.
pointing out the solar panels, Verner continued the tour of
the truck’s power system. He kneeled at the driver’s side
of the truck box and pulled open an underneath compartment
to expose a line of six large batteries containing enough
power to run the truck’s refrigeration units as well as pump
tunes through the sound system’s speaker.
could plug it in, but we haven’t had to yet,” Verner said,
noting the Veggie Mobile’s ability to self-sustain.
the Veggie Mobile even more environmentally friendly is its
reliance on biodiesel as a fuel source.
to the mobile-market project, the Veggie Mobile is utilized
as part of the Capital District Community Garden’s Taste and
Take program. During these events, which take place on Wednesdays,
the Veggie Mobile stops at area housing projects such as Steamboat
Square in Albany and Steinmetz Homes in Schenectady.
a giveaway program,” Klein said. “What we do is we do tastings
of different fruits and vegetables and then we give away fruits
and vegetables that we’ve tasted with folks.”
that’s left over after the Taste and Take program and the
three days of Veggie Mobile stops is donated to food pantries.
all about health,” Klein said. “As a society, more and more
we’re concerned about obesity, especially in children. We’re
concerned about the health crisis that our nation is facing,
whether it’s heart disease or diabetes. There are so many
issues that we’re being plagued by as a society. We’re looking
to try to fix those health crises, those health issues, but
here’s a way that we can deal with those health issues before
they become a problem by helping people eat healthier and
lead a healthier lifestyle.”
Angeles Times reported this week that Mexico
has been developing an e-mail and phone-call surveillance
system with economic support from the United States.
Verint Systems, a New York-based company, has
crafted the project with the help of $3 million
from the U.S. State Department. The connection
raises concerns that surveillance and information
will be shared between the United States and Mexico,
though neither country has acknowledged any type
of plan for an information-sharing program.
Wants to Be . . . a Kidney Recipient?
yourselves—U.S. television execs might have some
new inspiration coming from overseas. The Dutch
public-television network BNN will air The
Big Donor Show tomorrow (Friday) despite international
controversy and public pressure. The show features
a three-person competition for a kidney donation
to be provided by a 37-year old woman with an
inoperable brain tumor. The woman will choose
the recipient on national television. Although
many questions of ethics have emerged since the
announcement, the Dutch government says it will
not intervene for fear of censorship.
president Hugo Chavez has shut down one of the
country’s most popular, privately owned broadcast
stations, inspiring protest across the country.
In a decision reportedly based on the station’s
criticism of Chavez’s government, Radio Caracas
TV’s license will not be renewed and will be replaced
by the state-sponsored TVES channel. More than
5,000 protestors gathered in Caracas, while several
other large demonstrations were planned across
the country. The channel is also under investigation
for allegedly airing footage calling for Chavez’s
growing strains on her health, personal relationships
and finances, antiwar leader Cindy Sheehan declared
Monday that she would disengage from the peace
movement. Sheehan gained national attention in
2005 after she camped outside President George
Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch, demanding to meet
with him to discuss her son Casey’s death and
the war in Iraq. She went on to form the group
Gold Star Families for Peace, but has grown disillusioned
with Congress’ inability to end the war. In a
letter posted at the Daily Kos, she wrote that
several of her relationships had been destroyed
while trying to change a system that may now be
“carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious
Free speech: Kirsten Gillibrand speaks
to her constituents.
PHOTO: Chris Shields
Soldier Left Behind
Gillibrand holds a town-hall meeting while her vote on Iraq-war
funding displeases her antiwar constituents
There were signs that Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-Greenport) town-hall
meeting on the No Child Left Behind Act might not go as planned.
And those signs read, literally, “Teach Peace” and “Fund Education
Not War.” They were carried by attendees throughout the crowd
gathered in the Gowana Middle School auditorium on Tuesday.
About a dozen members of the peace movement, including representatives
of MoveOn.org, came to express their disappointment with Gillibrand’s
May 24 vote to fund the war in Iraq.
Gillibrand, a Democrat who was elected to Congress in 2006
in a Republican-heavy district, already faces a list of Republicans
who want to challenge her in 2008. Meanwhile, Gillibrand is
in a precarious balancing act, trying to please her left base
while staying in touch with the Republican heart of her district.
Gillibrand has made a point of keeping campaign promises about
open government and has held a number of town-hall meetings
and Congress on Your Corner events. However, it was clear
on Tuesday that some of Gillibrand’s base felt that she has
not been keeping her promises on the war in Iraq.
Linda LeTendre, who said she voted for Gillibrand and thought
she was a good person, carried a sign that bore Gillibrand’s
own words: “We need someone who will stand up to the president.”
“Standing up against the war even if your vote is voted down
is a success,” said LeTendre.
As the panel discussion on No Child Left Behind came to a
close, Gillibrand decided to take the issue of her vote on
war funding head-on. She explained that although she had supported
the bill introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), which
called for a scheduled troop withdrawal, she voted to fund
the war for two months because she did not trust the Bush
administration enough to withdraw troops from Iraq if they
were without funding. “The reason why I voted for that bill
is not because I support the war. I don’t. I voted for the
McGovern bill . . . because I see that this president sent
our troops to Iraq without body armor, without the training
that they need, without the equipment they need. . . . Bottom
line is, I don’t trust the administration enough to put the
entire burden on these troops.”
Gillibrand said she anticipates a change in the climate in
Congress in September, and expects to see more Republicans
joining the call to end the war. “We are seeing with each
progressive vote more and more people shifting. Right now
there are two Republicans who do not support the administration.
I think that will change in September. I think you will see
a shift from representatives of the most conservative districts
in the nation moving towards accountability.” Gillibrand also
noted that, sadly, this summer is expected to be a bloody
one for troops in Iraq.
Leland Lakritz of the Saratoga Peace Alliance said that he
felt Gillibrand was making things too complicated. “I just
don’t want any more death and destruction in Iraq,” he said.
Lakritz said Gillibrand’s vote didn’t make sense to him and
that he did not believe that the president would leave the
troops in Iraq without funding. “If he does that, it is grounds
for impeachment. Congress has the power of the purse. They
have the power to end the war. I just don’t buy it.”
Joe Seeman of MoveOn.org, who worked to elect Gillibrand,
said that she should not take his support for granted. “There
are a great many issues she is doing good things with. There
is no comparison between her and the evil one whose name we
shall not speak [former U.S. Rep. John Sweeney]. At least
she has public forums and explains herself. I have no qualms
about what we did. It was a good thing, but we have to hold
her accountable. We have to let her know if she continues
to do the wrong thing she won’t get our support again.”
Seeman said that by voting for the funding, Gillibrand may
be misreading her district. “Many registered Republicans say
that the war has got to end. So, I think it’s an error in
judgment in thinking she would lose any votes from Republicans
by doing anything she can to end the war. She may feel that
way, but she may be misreading where people are today, or
worse, where people are going to be in 2008.”
loose ends this week-