I went with Mike last Friday to see the Mahoning Valley Campus of Care.
It was formerly the Youngstown Developmental Center. This beautiful 35-acre parcel of land and buildings is now being used by many organizations for so many great services for the county, such as Head Start for preschoolers, school programming for youth with behavioral and developmental disabilities, and job training and placement for individuals with mental health and developmental disabilities.
I was most intrigued by what they were doing with food there. I toured the commercial kitchen that had just been refurbished, including the addition of a lot of cooler and freezer space. They are using the kitchen now to make lunches for the more than 400 kids in the local Head Start program.
Then they took me out to see their Mobile Market. It looked like a book mobile — but it was a grocery store inside. They take it to parts of town where there really are no grocery stores — the food deserts in the city. The bus was packed with great-looking fresh produce on one side, and fresh and frozen meats, eggs, butter, milk, cheese, and other refrigerated foods on the other. The Mobile Market comes to a neighborhood three times per week at a designated time and place. Food was reasonably priced — $2 for a quart of strawberries, a bunch of collard greens for $1. Items could be purchased with cash, credit cards, WIC and EBT cards. The market was easy in and out, and had everything to make fresh and nutritious meals. Sometimes residents make requests for items they want more of, and the item recently requested was more oxtails for Oxtail Stew!
While we were there, we helped break ground for a new commercial greenhouse. It will be 5,000 square feet with design provisions for solar and water recycling. The produce will feed the Head Start students and the Meals on Wheels program. The food preparation and the work in the greenhouse is all part of the job training that is going on there.
It was exciting and inspiring to see a community working together to solve many of their problems by providing good services, including innovative ways to feed their residents.
And while I don’t have a recipe for it, I’m still intrigued by the Oxtail Stew!
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.