Green grocer on the move | News, Sports, Jobs

Staff photo / Emily Scott
Helen Walker, a member of the Austintown Senior Center, shops for zucchini at the Mahoning Valley Mobile Market, which stopped at the center Thursday.


AUSTINTOWN — The Mahoning Valley Mobile Market made a stop at the Austintown Senior Center on Thursday, where community members could shop for local, fresh produce.

The mobile market is a partnership between ACTION, a nonprofit community organization fighting for social and racial justice, and Flying High, a Youngstown nonprofit that provides assistance for the needy and recovering addicts. A small school bus was converted into a grocery store with fruits, vegetables, meats, some pantry staples and dairy products.

When those who came to shop arrived, they were greeted by Sonja Voytko, a volunteer with ACTION, who helped to explain the process and get them started. They were then led onto the bus where they could fill a basket with whatever food they like, get checked out by Brian Zuzan, and finally have their food bagged by Terrylee Meade, who also was the bus driver.

“I think (the mobile market) makes a huge impact,” Voytko said. “Most people have places they can go and get snacks, cigarettes and alcohol, but not good, fresh food they can serve their families.”

Youngstown was named a food desert in 2017, which means a significant number of residents do not have a grocery store within a mile of their residence, nor do they have adequate transportation to get to a store. ACTION had been doing mobile markets in the past, but the new bus allows them to make multiple stops per day around Mahoning County. Voytko said the bus can make as many as three stops in a day.

Most of the produce at the market comes from Flying High’s GROW Urban Farm, which stands for gaining real opportunities for work. It employs those who have barriers to employment to give them good work experience, so that they can acclimate to real-world work environment, which makes other businesses more likely to hire them. In addition to the mobile market, the urban farm provides locally grown produce to restaurants, food pantries and farm co-ops.

Funds generated from the farm are used for the operational costs of the workforce development and job readiness training.

Zuzan and Meade are recovering from substance abuse, but said the urban farm has given them an opportunity to give back to their communities while bettering themselves and earning a wage. Meade said the work he’s done with Flying High makes him want to do more and continue improving. He is coming up on seven months sober and said his work keeps him honest.

“I also paint houses, which is where I get most of my money, but this work (with the mobile market) paints my soul,” Meade said. “It makes me a better person.”

The mobile market accepts cash, credit and debit cards and EBT cards, and some community programs give out vouchers for produce, including the Women, Infants and Children program and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

Other community groups also were at the senior center to give out resources. Mahoning County Public Health was giving away Narcan, medication disposal bags, COVID-19 antigen tests and information on the OEI Infant Vitality Program. Mercy Health was giving out samples of green bean salad and was performing blood pressure tests.

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Green grocer on the move | News, Sports, Jobs


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