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‘Veggie Bike’ to distribute fresh produce in north St. Louis

Mary Ostafi | Urban Harvest STL

A customized cargo bike full of fruits and vegetables will soon make an appearance in north St. Louis.

Urban Harvest STL and the St. Louis MetroMarket, will send the “Veggie Bike” on its maiden voyage next month. The program, which will initially distribute free produce, is intended to promote the MetroMarket’s mobile farmers market in a converted bus.

Veggie Bike is the latest collaboration between the two organizations. Urban Harvest STL grows food across a network of six urban farms in St. Louis and donates most of it to the St. Louis MetroMarket. The MetroMarket’s bus then sells the food in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, known as “food deserts.”

Beginning in mid-May, the Veggie Bike will give away free produce on Saturdays while the St. Louis MetroMarket is parked nearby.

“We’re really using it to get exposure to the neighborhoods and let them know that there’s a grocery store full of fresh food in your neighborhood parked here every Saturday in the same place,” said Urban Harvest STL Executive Director Mary Ostafi.

The Veggie Bike offers a potential way to cut operating costs while also serving the neighborhoods that rely on the MetroMarket. Ostafi said they want to gauge interest among community members before further developing the program.

“If the bike is very successful, we might turn it into a mobile market in the future,” she said. “We’re just starting with a small concept and testing it out.”

For now, the Veggie Bike will stick to the JeffVanderLou and Carr Square neighborhoods. The hope is to eventually build a fleet of Veggie Bikes that will expand the reach of the MetroMarket.

“We provide a lot of fresh produce to the MetroMarket bus, so this is an opportunity for us to put some of that onto this bike and drive it further into the neighborhood,” Ostafi said. “It becomes a much smaller scale, but simpler to operate and more nimble, so we can actually get more exposure.”

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @ShahlaFarzan

Shahla Farzan was a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. Before becoming a journalist, Shahla spent six years studying native bees, eventually earning her PhD in ecology from the University of California-Davis. Her work for St. Louis Public Radio on drug overdoses in Missouri prisons won a 2020 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award. 

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