Howard County is launching a new health food initiative, and it’s called the Roving Radish.
County Executive Ken Ulman unveiled the white, red and green refrigerated truck, which will be used to deliver fresh, pre-cut food to participating families at five locations across the county, in a ceremony at the Monarch Mills housing complex in Columbia on Thursday.
“We know that it’s incumbent upon all of us to make sure we are deep into the community, in every part of the community,” Ulman said. “We all know that we’ve got to make sure that healthy, accessible… nutritious and affordable food is provided everywhere in our county, and we want to make sure [to] spark the interest of all to make sure we’re providing not only food to solve our hunger issues, but also the most nutritious food we can, as well.”
The mobile market will begin delivering July 7, and will run for 20 weeks. Families can register to pick up a weekly food kit at one of five designated sites: Monarch Mills, the Dancel Family Center Y of Central Maryland in Ellicott City, Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, the Bain senior center in Columbia and the North Laurel Community Center.
Kits are available to all county residents and will cost $24 each, although people who can’t afford to pay the full amount can apply for a subsidy to bring the cost down to $10 a kit. A week’s subscription will include kits for eight different meals for a family of four.
As much as possible, the food will be supplied by county farmers, working through the Common Market, a Philadelphia-based firm that coordinates with local farms, according to county officials. Ulman said Wegman’s grocery store will backfill any ingredients that local farmers can’t provide.
Inmates at the Howard County Detention Center will prepare the food for distribution.
Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation, which partnered with the county for the project, said the mobile market is another way to “[foster] a community and culture of health.
“We’re trying to make sure the healthy options are the default options in Howard County,” Highsmith Vernick said. “Whether it’s food or beverages, we’re always trying to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Michelle Stewart, a Monarch Mills resident who happened upon the presentation in the parking lot of the housing complex, said she liked the idea of making access to food more convenient and affordable for families.
While she and her son incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables into their diets, Stewart said the cost was sometimes prohibitive.
Sometimes, she said, “it’s get vegetables or pay for medication.”
Other partners for the project include the United Way of Central Maryland, which has committed $50,000 to helping subsidize meal kits for families in need; and Apple Ford of Columbia, which donated the Roving Radish refrigerated van.
The mobile market is part of a broader farm-to-table initiative announced in December. In addition to the food truck, the county’s new Food Policy Task Force plans to create a food incubator, where the county can help distribute local produce and foster fledgling businesses that need to use a commercial kitchen.