Fresh Express Shuttle Offers Relief in Hartford ‘Food Desert’

"Food Deserts" are neighborhoods that don't have access to fresh produce because there are no grocery stores in the area. In Hartford, the Asylum Hill neighborhood is one of these deserts.

Under her umbrella, Denise Rivera begins her more than two mile trek to the grocery story.

“If I walk, the distance from here to ALDI takes me about an hour walk and hour back,” Rivera said.

Today she’s taking the CT Fast Track but even this grocery run will cost her at least an hour.

“Sometimes I just overdo it and sometimes I think I have a car which I don’t and I over do it and I just walk,” Rivera said.

It’s people like Rivera in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood, that The Hartford and Aetna are hoping to help through the Fresh Express Shuttle for free.

“Hartford is a healthful food desert,” Jocelyn Cerda with the Billings Forge Farmers Market said.

Cerda is the market manager for the Billings Forge Farmer’s Market. Starting Thursday the shuttle will take people living in the Asylum Hill neighborhood to the market.

“We’re working to change people’s habits because if you don’t have the access with the knowledge you’re not going to come here and say let me make a person that grows my food,” Cerda said.

Cerda says last year at least 20 people took to shuttle to the farmer’s market. In 2017, $10,000 in SNAP money was spent here.

Rivera says she hasn’t heard about the shuttle but this long grocery journey may be her last.

“Every little bit helps people when you’re in need of course,” Rivera said.

The shuttle runs every Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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