Tampa YMCA keeps Veggie Van rolling during pandemic

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Tampa YMCA’s mobile market is still catering to families in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

For nearly five years, the Tampa YMCA has been operating their mobile market, the Veggie Van. In a colorful and refrigerated truck, the YMCA gives out fresh fruits and vegetables for just $1 bag to families in communities known as food deserts.

“Many of our families don’t have cars and don’t have the means to drive to the grocery store,” Elizabeth Roman, Director of the mobile market, said. “They’re walkers and they typically rely on food from corner stores, which aren’t always the best. That’s why when we come along they have healthier and better options for their families.”

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the veggie van is still rolling, but with a few changes. Typically the van allows participating families to pick out their own food. With social distancing guidelines in place, the van now pre-packages the food, puts them in bags and places them 6 feet from one another. They also set up cones 6 feet a part for families to stand to as they get their bags. YMCA employees and volunteers are also taking extra safety precautions by wearing gloves and masks.

During this difficult time, the van is also increasing the frequency of certain stops and instead of bags being $1 each, everything is free.

“Our biggest concern are that our family’s are already lacking resources,” Roman said. “When other families are able to drive around to find everything they need every time it runs out, when you don’t have a car you don’t have access to do that, so then you’re stuck at home without any resources to keep your family healthy. Kids also eat more when they are stuck at home, so we are just bridging that gap for families.”

The YMCA makes this all happen thanks to several partners. Some include Publix, Tampa General Hospital and Feeding Tampa Bay. For a list of the van’s stops and hours, please contact elizabeth.roman@tampaymca.org.

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