Urban Growers Collective converts Chicago city buses into mobile produce stands for city food deserts.

Everyone knows that fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But what do you do if produce isn't available in your neighborhood and you don't have the means to go somewhere else?

Food deserts are a problem in some urban areas. Imagine having a 7-11 as your only grocery store for miles, not having access to a car, and not having public transportation as a viable option. Lack of healthy food options can have long-term impacts on people's health, increasing chronic issues like diabetes and heart disease and leading to greater health disparities between socioeconomic groups.

In Chicago, neighborhoods that are predominantly black are particularly hard hit by food deserts. According to the Chicago Reporter, African Americans make up about a third of Chicago's population, but almost 80 percent of the population of "persistently low or volatile food access areas."

Even as Chicago has attempted to mitigate this issue by putting in more supermarkets, the neighborhoods with the most need are still not gaining adequate access to fresh foods. Most of the new supermarkets are being put into "food oases," where there are already options for buying healthy foods. So food deserts persist.

That's where Fresh Moves Mobile Market comes in. A project of the Urban Growers Collective, Fresh Moves refurbishes old city buses, converts them into mobile produce stands, and brings fresh fruits and vegetables to food desert neighborhoods. The Mayor's Office and the City of Chicago have partnered with the program, and with the support of Barilla US and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Fresh Moves served 10,000 Chicagoans more than 17,000 pounds of fresh produce in 2018.

The company behind the mobile market, Urban Growers Collective (UGC), is a non-profit organization that creates educational programs and partnerships to achieve its overarching mission to positively influence food-deprived neighborhoods in Chicago's South and West Side communities. Led by Co-founders Erika Allen and Laurell Sims, the goal is to make nutritional food more accessible and affordable, create economic opportunities, and break systemic patterns.

"Laurell and I work together to embed our passion for social justice and healing into all initiatives at UGC to positively influence the lives of Chicago's oppressed population," says Co-Founder Erika Allen. "We provide the tools needed for personal growth and to combat systemic injustices in food systems," adds Co-Founder Laurell Sims.

Malcolm Evans is the Urban Farms Production Manager for the Urban Growers Collective, and he helped with the re-launch of the Fresh Moves Mobile Market. "We base our locations off of communities that don't have grocery stores nearby and therefore have a shortage of healthy food options for their families in those areas," he told Upworthy. "We try go to community centers and neighborhoods where we can offer food to groups of people at a time. I grew up in these neighborhoods, so I'm very aware of the food access and living conditions and I know where healthy food options are needed."

Evans says that 70% of the produce delivered by Fresh Moves is grown by farms that Urban Growers Collective has throughout the city. In fact, he got his own start at a community garden where he met Erika Allen as a kid. "The community garden was a safe zone where I could hang out, help out on the farm and avoid violence," he says. "I was able to figure myself out more and realized that I wanted to pursue this as a career. I became the great farmer that I am today as a result of my childhood working with Erika."

UGC operates seven urban farms on 11-acres of land predominantly located on Chicago's South Side. Each farm utilizes organic growing methods, intensive growing practices that maximize space, and year-round production strategies. Staff on these farms integrate education, training, leadership development and food distribution, supporting the UGC mission to provide opportunities for people in underserved communities.

Three cheers for this women-led, grassroots initiative that is making a real difference in the lives of thousands.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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