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Residents of the Delavan-Grider neighborhood have a new set of wheels for grocery shopping thanks to a van service unveiled Friday at the Erie County Medical Center Farmers’ Markets on Grider Street.

“There are various fast-food restaurants and corner stores where you can buy potato chips but not potatoes,” said Rita Hubbard-Robinson, institutional advancement director at ECMC Lifeline Foundation. “The No. 1 thing residents felt was an issue was the lack of access to fresh food. The access to healthy food and nutrition leads to healthy outcomes.”

The idea for a door-to-door grocery shuttle evolved after meetings with residents indicated an overwhelming concern at the lack of a grocery store within the neighborhood bordered by Fillmore Avenue, Kensington Avenue, William L. Gaiter Parkway, East Delavan, Bailey Avenue and East Ferry Street.

The grocery shuttle will provide transportation Tuesdays and Saturdays to Tops Markets on Grant and Amherst streets.

On Fridays, the van will ferry residents to the Farmers’ Market, 351 Grider St.

The three-month demonstration program was jump-started by a $1,200 grant from the Society for Community Research and Action. White Rock Missionary Baptist Church and Buffalo United Front also provided support.

Adult participants may register for the transportation service by calling 218-9889. Registration is limited to 40 participants and will continue throughout the weekend at area churches and community centers.

The service is expected to begin Tuesday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Friday and 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday.

Delavan-Grider residents have been meeting regularly to address ways to improve their health, Hubbard-Robinson noted.

“How many people in this neighborhood have hypertension?” she asked. “Everyone does, which leads to diabetes, which leads to heart disease. Why is that going on? Because people don’t know about sodium, about reading labels. Where do you learn that?”

Starting Tuesday, the Tops on Grant and Amherst streets will offer healthy food demonstrations in addition to nutrition counseling, according to Jon Douglas, store manager.

“It will allow us to educate the consumer on how to build a healthier lifestyle through fresh food,” Douglas said. “We’ll see what the people want.”

The launch of the ECMC Farmers’ Market four years ago was a direct response to the neighborhood’s need for fresh produce, said Joe Cirillo, ECMC spokesman.

“The market’s mission is to provide a neighborhood-based location that offers a variety of approaches to healthy living,” said Cirillo.

In addition to fruit and produce vendors, the market will offer lunch from three area food trucks on a rotating basis: The Whole Hog, Black Market and Lloyd’s Taco.

Nutrition education and gardening tips will be offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Fitness, too, will energize the market this summer featuring Gospel Aerobics with Jocelyn McEntire of the YMCA.

email jkwiatkowski@buffnews.ccomcom