The Quad-City Food Hub veggie mobile project got a load of lettuce Thursday.

The Wellmark Foundation gave the food hub $45,000, to go along with $25,000 grants provided by Genesis Health System and the Riverboat Development Authority.

The veggie mobile, expected to launch in May, will be a refrigerated vehicle that will sell locally grown produce in areas where access to fresh foods is limited, including senior apartment complexes, college campuses and  neighborhoods that are in a "food desert," said food hub chairwoman Carla Jaquet. It also will have an educational component.

"We want to teach people and kids there is a difference in taste of a vine-ripened tomato and one that has been trucked 1,500 miles," she said.

The veggie mobile is just part of the momentum building for the food hub, which includes a market store that expanded earlier this year and a certified community kitchen that will be ready for use early next year. The grant money will be used to buy the truck, equip and staff it and provide some marketing.

"We're very excited," Jaquet said. "To look back to where we were three years ago and where we are now."

The food hub grew out of a visit to Detroit's Eastern Michigan Regional Food Hub three years ago. Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba also is pleased at what he sees in a building that used to hold bars and clubs that couldn't seem to last. Also, he likes a healthy initiative such as the veggie mobile.

"This has been a wonderful addition to the city of Davenport," he said. "This veggie mobile will take key resources into our neighborhoods and substantially heighten access and will provide the educational tools where relationships are cultivated and enlightened, resulting in a healthier community."

A community health survey by Genesis Health System showed that the primary concerns in the Quad-City region are nutrition, physical activity and obesity, and that the area doesn't measure up well to the rest of Iowa, Genesis vice president Ken Croken said.

The grant from Wellmark is one of eight handed out in Iowa and South Dakota this year. Other projects included an inclusive playground and YMCA health curriculum, Wellmark Foundation director Matt McGarvey said. He sees the food hub's momentum.

"You've got people committed to making it happen," he said. "It will be a success, and we're glad to be a small part of that."