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Mobile farmers market brings harvest to cancer patients

Nov 01, 2017 01:16PM ● Published by Shaun Delliskave

The Green Urban Lunch Box’s Shawn Peterson assists a patron at IMC’s free farmers market. (Photo courtesy of Green Urban Lunch Box)

Gallery: Mobile farmers market [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

From a distance, it looked like The Partridge Family’s bus had parked next to Intermountain Medical Center’s (IMC) Cancer Center. All that was missing was a band playing the TV show’s signature tune “Get Happy.” Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be The Green Urban Lunch Box’s colorful bus there to help patients and their families get happy with a free farmers market.

The free farmers market was set up as a cooperative project between IMC and The Green Urban Lunch Box, a local community food production and hunger relief program, to share fresh fruits and vegetables with patients who are battling cancer. 

On several Thursday afternoons in September, in IMC’s Cancer Center (Building #3), the market ran until the bins were empty. In addition, registered dietitians from the hospital were on hand to share nutrition tips, education, and seasonal recipes to enhance patients’ healing journey.

“We had an amazing turnout with patients and their loved ones filling bags before we set everything out,” said Elisa Soulier, IMC’s oncology LiVe Well program manager.

The Green Urban Lunch Box is an innovative program that maximizes existing resources (underutilized urban gardens and fruit trees) to fight hunger with fresh produce and strengthen local communities.

“I founded The Green Urban Lunch Box with the hope to get people to think differently about food and where it came from. I really want to use the resources in the community to make fresh food available to everyone,” said Green Urban Lunch Box founder Shawn Peterson. 

Food distributed at the cancer center’s farmers market came through three programs: The FruitShare Program, the Back-Farms program, and from The Green Urban Lunch Box’s farm in South Salt Lake.

The FruitShare program partners with fruit tree owners and community volunteers to harvest and distribute fruit that would otherwise go to waste. A tree owner can register their tree(s), and volunteers will come harvest the fruit. One third of the fruit goes to the homeowner, one third to the volunteers, and one third to hunger relief. 

Back-Farms uses volunteers to build, cultivate, and maintain organic gardens in disadvantaged senior citizens’ backyards at no cost to homeowners. Every garden is assigned a garden apprentice—a volunteer who is responsible for the garden during the growing season. Produce not used by the senior is harvested by the garden apprentice, or other volunteers who help in the garden, and donated to local senior centers or The Green Urban Lunch Box farmers market.

This summer, Intermountain Healthcare approached Peterson about the possibility of doing a free farmers market for cancer patients. 

“They reached out to me and told me about the need of participants to have access to healthy foods and explained how IHC was trying to approach wellness from a holistic approach that took into account all aspects of life,” said Peterson.

“We distributed more than 404 pounds of produce—which would normally cost $1,030—for free to our patients in the course of two hours,” said Soulier. “The gratitude expressed by those who filled their bags was overwhelming. Everyone said how hard it is to get to the store when they’re spending hours getting treatments, and they said how expensive it can get to buy fresh produce. Good nutrition is fundamental to their cancer care, so we’re so happy we could support their healing through this effort.”

This isn’t the first time that The Green Urban Lunch Box has partnered with another organization. In Ogden, the O-Town Kitchen gets produce to help keep single mothers employed.

Increased demand on The Green Urban Lunch Box’s services has stretched volunteers to their limits. 

“Come out and volunteer with us and help provide produce to hungry people,” encouraged Peterson. 

More information on The Green Urban Lunch Box can be found online at: https://www.thegreenurbanlunchbox.com/.

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