Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health has partnered with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Community Action Partnerships to bring Fresh Express, a mobile food pantry filled with fresh produce and healthy food options, to Columbia, Pennsylvania.
“We are especially interested in providing better access to affordable healthy foods in Columbia, which has one of the highest poverty rates in Lancaster County,” said Brenda Buescher, Health Promotion Specialist at LG Health. “The Fresh Express program has worked well in other communities, so we started working with the Columbia Life Network and the Columbia Borough School District to bring the program here.” Buescher added that the program offers fresh fruits, vegetables, milk and eggs to participants.
Fresh Express held its first distribution at Columbia’s Park Elementary School on July 27. The program will return on the fourth Friday of every month from 3:30-5:30 p.m., except in November, to deliver free, fresh food items. While registration is encouraged to help ensure the program is properly stocked, they will serve those who walk in as well.
The program is free to individuals and families from Columbia who meet income guidelines (for example, at or below an annual income of $37,650 for a family of four). Upon arrival, customers sign a simple form that confirms they meet the income guidelines, and then they can shop and select the products.
“People who are food-insecure, meaning they do not have enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle, are at risk of more chronic diseases related to diet, like diabetes and heart disease,” Buescher said. “Having access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods is very important for our community’s health.”
Buescher added that in places like Columbia, where many residents have limited transportation options, this program helps provide a convenient way to access healthy food close to home.
Fresh Express has additional distribution sites in Lancaster County, including the Together Community Center in Paradise, Oak Bottom Village in Quarryville, and the Crispus Attucks Community Center, Jean Polite Food Bank and Spanish American Civic Association in Lancaster city.
Fresh Express, operated by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, brings fresh, nutrition foods to more than 11,000 people in 15 counties every month.
The program takes place every fourth Friday except in November, when it will be held on the fifth Friday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. To register for the program, call 717-684-1497.
To learn more about the Fresh Express program, visit this page or contact Brenda Buescher, LG Health Health Promotion Specialist.