20210821-LOC-Green To Go

Claudia Brooks transfers bananas into a container at Southwestern Community Services in Keene, where the N.H. Healthy Families Green to Go van made a stop, as seen in this file photo from November 2019.

A van offering free fresh produce is scheduled to stop by Southwestern Community Services in Keene this coming week, as part of a statewide initiative to support people who lack dependable access to healthy, high-quality food.

The Green to Go project — in its third year — is a mobile pantry provided through N.H. Healthy Families’ Gateway Services program. Gateway Services identifies social service care gaps and builds access to supports for communities across the state, according to a news release from N.H. Healthy Families.

The van will be in Southwestern Community Services’ parking lot, at 63 Community Way, on Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon.

People who stop by the van will be given a tote bag filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, and will also be offered socks, self-care kits and information about supports in the area, according to N.H. Healthy Families spokeswoman Kerry Pascetta.

Additionally, nurses will be on-site to discuss diabetes management and nutrition education, said Clyde White, CEO of N.H. Healthy Families.

“We’re trying to make the most impact we can in a community,” he said.

On a typical day, White said Green to Go will see a “pretty large turnout.” Recently, for example, he said the van saw 150 people in Berlin.

Communities are chosen based on where the most need is, according to White, such as places with high food insecurity rates — how many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

The Elm City is one of those places, White said, and has also been described as a “food desert,” meaning there is limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.

“Based on our information, it seems like Keene would be a great place to do this. We feel there’s a need for resources there,” he said.

Statewide, one in 11 people live with food insecurity, according to 2019 data from Feeding America, a national nonprofit agency aimed at addressing hunger. One in nine children also fall into this category, the data show.

In Cheshire County, the data show more than 7,000 people are considered food insecure, including over 1,700 kids.

“There’s definitely an access issue there in regards to healthy fruits and vegetables,” White said, “so we’re just filling that gap for them.”

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.