Along with partnering organizations like City Harvest, which donates food to feed New York’s hungry, Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo has been hosting monthly mobile markets, where seniors can get their hands on free fruits, vegetables and other goods without leaving their apartment complex.
On a bitterly cold Tuesday morning, seniors lined up outside a community room ready to fill up their carts with potatoes, onions, rutabagas and bread. A dozen volunteers moved the fresh groceries out of their boxes and into bags, sorting them to make it easier for seniors to grab and go.
Drew Gabriel, legislative and budget director for Cumbo, said the mobile markets provide an important service to the community.
“In this community, it’s a high population of seniors and they really want to figure out a healthy lifestyle,” Gabriel said. “Once you get to that age, you got to eat healthy, stay with your grains and vegetables, things of that nature. This really gives seniors the opportunity to have something that’s free and that’s directly in their households.”
Since October, Cumbo, other elected officials and partnering organizations have brought the market to seniors at Ebbets Field on the first Tuesday of every month. They also have the mobile market in downtown Brooklyn, where Gabriel said they work with the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP).
“This idea came from the seniors who live in the building, as well as the council member seeing a vision in terms of saying let’s do something more for them,” Gabriel said. “A lot of the seniors are on a fixed income. So we do anything that can really help that, especially with the high cost in the area going up.”
As the wintry weather picks up, Gabriel said it’s crucial for this market to help seniors and families who have the need.
“This way, seniors don’t have to walk anywhere, they don’t have to go too far,” he said. “Granted, you still have to put on a jacket to go downstairs. But nonetheless, it’s right there. We’re bringing it directly to you.”
Dollie Campbell, the director of senior citizens in the complex, agreed with Gabriel that the mobile market is beneficial to the seniors.
“It means quite a bit because my seniors are on a fixed income,” Campbell said. “And with them getting fresh vegetables, they don’t have to go into the cold. They come right in their building and pick it up and go home.”
Campbell, who has lived in the seven-building complex for more than 40 years, compared the environment there to a village.
“Everybody knows everybody,” she said.
One of the women she knows is Margie Ray, who has lived in Ebbets Field housing for 35 years. She’s one of the volunteers who comes down once a month to help distribute fresh produce.
“A lot of people haven’t been shopping because it’s been cold,” Ray said. “And it’s nice that they can just come in and just get something and don’t have to worry about paying.”
Ray said she sees 200 to 250 people come in for the free fruits and vegetables. The market is open from 9 to 11 a.m., but Ray said they distribute the food until it’s all gone.
“We have a lot of people that work, so they come later,” she said. “We make sure we put some to the side for them because we want to make sure that it’s equally available to everybody.”
Campbell said Cumbo has been a big help to this community, and praised her for bringing the markets to Ebbets Field.
“Laurie has been an angel,” Campbell said. “She’s helping us to get funding because we’ve never had funding. And she’s helping us to get programs like this, and now she’s in the move to actually get a food pantry where we will be given different foods.”
Campbell hopes that when next October comes around, her seniors can have the mobile market program renewed for the following year.
“Like I said, it’s beneficial to the seniors,” she said. “Whoever stands here, I hope they continue it.”