Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Capital Roots’ new Urban Grow Center (594 River Street, Troy, NY 12180), to better understand their mission of nourishing healthy communities by providing access to fresh food and green spaces for all. Open and inviting, the building features a Volunteer Center where wonderful volunteers help Capital Roots in mailings and other important activities ; a Produce Market offering local fruits, veggies, honey, eggs, and other value-added products; and the Produce Hub featuring two spacious walk-in coolers and large loading bays. The new building has allowed Capital Roots to triple its production and outreach to neighborhoods.
In its 40-year history, Capital Roots has flourished and grown like the fresh fruits and vegetables it provides. It was founded in 1975 as a community gardens initiative to provide residents access to fresh food. From there it grew into eight different programs that are finding new and creative ways of making fresh, local food and green spaces available for all. For this post I will just touch on three of those programs, but their website has information on all of their programs and ways you can get involved!
With more than 800 plots in Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga counties, the Community Gardens program provides more than 4,000 families with the chance to grow their own food. (There is still time to sign up for a plot in a garden close to home! Head here if you’re interested.) It’s no problem if you’ve never gardened before—Capital Roots provides free educational classes throughout the season to help you develop your green thumb! Gardeners of all ages are encouraged to visit the Urban Grow Center for free seeds and resources about gardening.
Perhaps one of the more recognizable Capital Roots programs is the Veggie Mobile®, a “produce aisle on wheels”! Rolling up to its stops playing funky, fun music, the Veggie Mobile® redefines what it means to have accessible food. Making about 50 stops a week Tuesday through Saturday, the Veggie Mobile® takes multiple forms of payment including Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons! It’s not very often someone walks onto a custom-built truck to purchase their produce, so families make a visit to the Veggie Mobile® an experience to repeat! The bite-sized Veggie Mobile® Sprout expands the reach of this program to smaller neighborhoods in the Capital Region. And at each stop, staff give customers free produce and recipes through the Taste and Take program to show that eating healthier is a lot simpler than it is sometimes purported to be. You can find a Veggie Mobile® stop near you on their webpage.
Capital Roots also combats the incidence of food deserts by stocking urban convenience stores with fresh produce through their Healthy Stores program. Partnering with small-business store owners and installing custom-designed cooler and rack systems, fruits and veggies are easily accessible to residents that may not have grocery stores where fresh produce is easier to find. By limiting markup of the produce in the convenience stores, people of all income levels can now enjoy delicious fruit and vegetables that are locally grown. Healthy Stores improves community health while supporting local businesses at the same time!
It’s easy to see why we are very excited to have Capital Roots attending the Celebration on Saturday! Their success has contributed immensely to local resiliency and healthier lifestyles, and they provide many involvement opportunities for people of all ages and skill levels. Come by to learn more about this amazing group!
Huge thank you to Becky Webster!