Eating Well & the LVIM Mobile Food Pantry

by Caroline Benitez

Eating well starts not with what’s on your plate, but what’s in your grocery cart. Though there isn’t a one-size fits-all way to eat, almost everyone agrees that a diet rich in fresh veggies, produce, and whole grains is the foundation to good health. Sometimes knowing the right foods to eat isn’t enough. The community where you live can have a big impact on what goes into your diet- especially if you live in a food desert.

The USDA defines a food desert as a community where a large proportion of households are low-income and have low access to fresh foods. There might be convenience stores or restaurants nearby to buy the basics and shelf-stable processed items, but an actual grocery store or supermarket with fresh foods is harder to get to. In these places, the closest grocery store is over one mile away in an urban area, or 10 miles in a rural area.

For those of us living in an urban area, living one mile from a grocery store might not sound too terrible. But what if you don’t have a car and have to rely on public transportation or rides from friends? What if you have a disability or mobility issues? Then, reliably gathering fresh ingredients to make a healthy meal for you and your family is no easy task.

A 2015 analysis by the USDA found that a relatively high proportion (9.8%) of households in the central Lakeland area did not have vehicles and lived over one half-mile from a supermarket. All in all, 1.2 million urban Floridians and 780,000 rural Floridians live in a food desert.

At LVIM, we believe that everyone deserves a chance to live a healthy life, no matter their income. Through the generosity of the George W. Jenkins Foundation, and in partnership with United Way of Central Florida and Feeding Tampa Bay, LVIM launched our mobile food pantry initiative. Since kicking off this program in March, LVIM has helped to provide a box of free healthy foods like fresh produce and meat to 1,222 households which includes 4,299 people!

Mobile Food Pantry

Second and Last Tuesday of Every Month

Location: 600 W Peachtree Street

Time: 12:00pm-2:00pm

Registration starts at 11:00am.

For more information about food deserts and the Florida statistics visit the sites below:

Food desert map:

Florida stats:


About LVIM

LVIM provides free, high-quality, out-patient medical, dental, and mental health care to the working uninsured of Polk County in a compassionate manner. Through 19 years of excellent leadership, LVIM has grown into a thriving and crucial organization for the Polk County community serving the health care needs of over 4,300 eligible patients each year and providing over $9 million in services in 2019 alone. At LVIM the treatment is free, the care is priceless!

To learn more about LVIM visit