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Seeds of Change: How 3 Moms Provide Produce to Needy Families

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Lisa Johanon, 50

Founder, Peaches & Greens
Detroit, Michigan

Sprouts of an Idea
Lisa Johanon
Enlarge Image
Cybelle Codish

When Lisa was a teen, she volunteered in Detroit's ailing inner city—and that's where she and her husband, Dan, decided to live when they got married. "We believe the best way to help is to find out firsthand what's needed," she explains. She created Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation to provide tutoring, job training and housing assistance. Meanwhile, though, she struggled to find nutritious food for her family in an area where liquor stores outnumber grocers 23 to 1. "I had a car and could drive 10 miles to find things I'd feel good about serving," Lisa says. "But many of my neighbors had no way to do that." The need became even more urgent when her two children came along.

Taking Root

In the summer of 2008, Lisa bought an old UPS truck on Craigslist for $5,000, outfitted it with a refrigerator, packed it with fresh fare from the wholesale produce terminal and dispatched it to the city streets. A loudspeaker played R&B music while the driver announced, "Peaches and greens, nutritious and delicious!"

The Harvest

From the beginning, Peaches & Greens was a hit, bringing out enthusiastic moms as well as grateful seniors and kids, who'd pick out an apple or peach for a quarter. That success inspired Lisa to open a Peaches & Greens store and cafe, and to start two community gardens. Everything is operated with the help of local tweens and teens, who earn a share of the income generated. Lisa's own son and daughter, now 18 and 20, regularly clock weekend and vacation hours busing tables at the cafe or planting and weeding the gardens. In May 2010 Michelle Obama rode in the truck, cheering its role in boosting healthy eating. "The visit was wonderful," says Lisa, "but what feels best is knowing we're satisfying the needs of our community. Peaches & Greens may not have changed the world, but now kids on Calvert or Hazelwood streets can enjoy fresh strawberries and watermelon in season."

Lisa's Tomato Salsa

Finely chop 2 to 3 tomatoes or 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, 2 to 3 green onions and 1 large yellow or white onion. Add to a large lidded storage container. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons lime juice, 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, 1/2 to 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped, 3 to 4 cloves chopped garlic and 1 seeded and finely chopped chile pepper, if desired. Add 1 to 2 cups thawed frozen corn; stir in salt and pepper to taste. Cover and shake to mix. Enjoy! (Salsa's not an exact science—feel free to add or subtract ingredients.)

 

Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.