Published in The Telegraph October 21, 2012

NASHUA – Mindy Sartorelli is committed to serving fresh produce to her 7- and 8-year-old boys.

"We've always eaten healthy," she said.

Sartorelli said healthy food is more expensive than some other things she could buy, but it's important to her, and she's able to pay for it with the help of food stamps.

Since she doesn't have a car, Sartorelli takes a bus to buy food at a Market Basket a few miles from her Vine Street home. She said she's able to carry quite a bit at a time because she brings reusable bags, but she still has to shop several times a week.

Sartorelli was part of a community forum Wednesday evening at which Tree Streets residents and local agency staff members assessed the resources for healthy living available in and around the neighborhood.

Led by city officials and staff members of the Concord-based Foundation for Healthy Communities, participants noted assets: corner stores stocking fresh food and organizations promoting children's active play, such as the Police Athletic League.

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They also identified barriers to healthy lifestyles, including bus schedules that can make shopping a grueling affair for people such as Satorelli and safety concerns that cause parents to keep their kids from playing outside.

In some respects, the Tree Streets are an excellent place for people concerned about healthy living.

Several stores in the neighborhood stock fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.

At Saigon Asian Market on Pine Street, Huong Cao said she and her family sell a lot of produce and fresh fish, both to people in the neighborhood and to others who come from outside the neighborhood to take advantage of specialty products and good prices.

She said her brother and husband go to wholesale markets in New York and Boston to avoid the extra expense of going through a distributor.

"They find good stuff, too," she said.

A few blocks away at the corner of Central and Palm streets, Sally's Food Market offers an array of meats and vegetables, including pineapples, plantains and yucca, as well as an aisle of dried and canned beans.

"I sell a lot of groceries," owner Sally Rodriguez said.

She said some shoppers seem to come mainly because they live nearby, but she also makes an effort to keep prices down and to offer deals every week. Like Saigon's owners, she does her own wholesale shopping, driving to Boston regularly.

For those who don't have cars, stocking up on food for a week or two at larger supermarkets can be tricky.

At the Bronstein Apartments public housing complex, some residents say they share resources to get their shopping done.

Lawrence Degree said he and his wife help their neighbors out with rides to Market Basket or other supermarkets in the area.

They even lend their car out sometimes or pick up food for a friend.

"We usually help each other out," he said.

Degree said Bronstein residents sometimes go all the way to Lawrence, Mass., where they know a place that sells good-quality meat at low prices, bringing back a big load for multiple families.

Another Bronstein resident, Marilyn Roig, said she gives her neighbors rides to Market Basket or Sam's Club in exchange for a little gas money.

She said she's happy to help out with rides while her children are in school.

"That's what I normally do during the day," she said.

Roig said the cost of food isn't a big issue for her, although she makes a point of looking for good deals such as big packages of snacks at Sam's Club.

"We learn how to budget with a small amount so, in the end, you become a pro," she said.

Source: The Telegraph

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