People living in the area of Rock Island's 11th Street are in a "food desert," a term used to describe low-income neighborhoods with no ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.

Because full-line grocery stores are one-half to a mile away, residents without access to a car or bus might not be able to get to a store, said Betty Gavin of the University of Illinois Extension-Rock Island County.

But beginning Sunday, residents will be able to ride a free bus once a month to shop at the Hy-Vee Food Store, 2930 18th Ave., and Aldi Foods, 1817 38th St.

And while they're on the bus, an Extension educator will talk about food, nutrition, wellness and saving money.

"It won't be a formal presentation, but rather than riding in silence and looking out the window, we'll have an educator talk informally, but directly, about what's on sale, five ways to cook chicken, what to do with squash, have you ever tried to eat a certain kind of vegetable," Gavin said.

"Maybe he'll have a sample to share. It's intended to help people get the most out of their food dollars. It will be more or less a conversation, with people sharing back and forth. It's a captive audience, so we're hoping to direct them toward nutrition, wellness and making good choices," she added.

The Supermarket Shuttle will operate once a month through September, with pickups and drop-offs at seven locations: Sunset Heights apartments, Frances Willard Elementary School, Westside Church of Christ, Douglas Park, Century Woods Apartments, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, Spencer Towers apartments and the Word of Life Christian Center.

Gavin hopes to offer a shuttle in a food desert area of Moline/East Moline as early as March.

The bulk of the funding — about $14,000 — is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, education program via the University of Illinois Extension.

That amount will pay to hire the part-time educator, marketing and materials.

An additional $2,200 to pay for the Johannes Bus Service vehicle and driver comes from Activate Rock Island, an initiative facilitated by the Two Rivers YMCA to promote healthier living.

Extension is getting the word out through flyers and other information distributed at all of the pickup locations, the county health department, area food pantries, Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, clinics, schools and Casa Guanajuato, an organization serving Latinos in the Quad-Cities.

Gavin admits that there are lots of variables: Will people use the service? Will the time — 1-4 p.m. the third Sunday of each month — work out? 

But Gavin — the SNAP education program coordinator for the Extension unit serving Rock Island, Henry, Mercer and Stark counties — has attended a lot of meetings to brainstorm ideas on how to get nutritious food in the hands of people who might not otherwise have access.

"We finally said, 'Has anybody tried just bringing people out to these stores?' " she said.

Christie Philby of the Two Rivers Y doesn't expect the shuttle will solve the entire problem. But if reliable transportation is what prevents people from getting healthy food, then it will help, she said.

(7) comments

JKnox

Oh and let's not forget the $12M we gave walmart in site development costs. That's right, you paid for everything from new buildings for some offices to new stationary for Blackhawk college. Let's see how much money you get back in taxes...after walmart puts kmart and those jobs out of business and at least a few other local mom and pop shops. Again...great news for all of you rock islanders.

JKnox - you state you don't live in Rock Island. You didn't give 12M to WalMart then. Yes, Blackhawk moved - which it would do, if Fairway moved in, WalMart, or any other store, so you can't claim that as an expense, nor the expense of moving a pawn shop and a church.

WalMart hasn't shut down any other K-Mart, nor will it shut down the Rock Island Store. After all, remember the K-Mart corp bought Sears. Sears was the failing business, and has already opened a building in Moline.

Why the hate? Did you get offered a job at Fairway? Highly unlikely - they don't hire people with your attitude.

Feel free to share with us what mom and pop businesses are going out of business around WalMart - that area is practically business free, and will draw more traffic to the corridor. You may hate it, but the people that live in the west end love it.

Get your nasty pink slime burger somewhere else. Fairway's not moving to Audobon. We will make the 12M back in no time.

If you want to whine about RI, feel free to move there.

JKnox

What about the rest of the west end that is 30 blocks from walmart?? We could've had two new groceries if the city would've put Fareway by the MLK Jr center and there would be NO food deserts. The west end still loses, aside from those 400 walmart jobs that still won't get anyone out of poverty...thanks for nothing Pauley and friends!

Fairway doesn't WANT to build by the MLK center, is the problem.

I guess you don't go to the west end, then. Try and look who negotiated the WalMart deal? It was Schweibert (sp) that initiated this, he'd been working it for years. And, JKnox, it's one of the few areas that can still be developed, without knocking down homes, or building on a flood plain. The people I know, and the people I speak to from the west end are thrilled they are getting a Walmart.

Audobon is 20 blocks south of Save-A-Lot, a block west of Hy-Vee, and 8 blocks west of Aldi. They didn't need a cut-rate low quality store near them, and Fairway doesn't even carry food as upscale as the new Aldi's.

According to the residents, it's a win win. 400? More than that. Neither would the 15 Fairway jobs, either.

I'm very thankful Pauley dug his heels in, rather than listen to a person that doesn't live in Rock Island propose where a store is built.

sharrison

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that location was about 3 blocks from where Hyvee is? So please explain how that would have solved any problem at all. I'm sure the elderly and disabled in those areas could have just skipped and danced on up to that location with ease!

JKnox

Too bad that rock island hasn't had a grocery store trying to come to town into a location where residents didn't want it and could've used federal funding to build it in a good desert and solve this problem...oh wait...that's exactly what they had. But what did they get? A bulldozed school, angry neighbors and a west end that still no one cares about. Thank your city council for blowing that wonderful opportunity to solve about 6 different problems in one fell swoop. Too bad no one cares about poor people.

Too bad you don't follow the news better, either.

They are building a WalMart with groceries in the west end, on 11th Street, in close proximity to several of the drop points.

Your ridiculous comment about the fairway? This would have helped how?

I see you aren't up on your history, either. The original Audobon school is still standing. The second school has been torn down.

Why would we want to use tax dollars, when Walmart is getting minimal dollars and building a store that would have dwarfed that fairway. BTW, the WalMart deal was cut long before the Fairway deal. I've thanked my city council and the Mayor for not wasting my tax dollars.

That site is not suited for a fairway - inadequate parking, inadequate access, a nuisance to the neighborhood. Instead - the people in that neighborhood are happy, and the people in the 11th street corridor as well as the rest of Rock Island are happy.

Hy-Vee clobbered the original Eagles stores, and when local businessmen bought the 24th street Country Market, the new Hy-Vee drove them out of business as well. Erecting a store across the street from Hy-Vee would not have made it, either. Do the math - Aldi at 38th, Hy-Vee at 29-30th, and you want to put a 3rd at 28-29th? Epic Fail.

Good desert? Care to clarify that?

Apparently the city cares more about poor people than you do - there is now a stop-gap measure in place during decent weather, while the "poor people" wait for a multi-million dollar store gets built in their neighborhood, as opposed to being bused 30 plus blocks.

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