A Moveable Feast: Photographs of the NYC Green Cart Program at MCNY

{Gabriele Stabile, Untitled, 2009}

If you live in New York City, then you’re probably familiar with those ubiquitous sidewalk green carts. Fruits and produce for a reasonable price, on the go, anywhere, anytime. They’re not usually organic, nor do they typically boast any sustainable practices, but these carts serve an arguably even more important purpose: to bring fresh fruits and veggies to under-served communities, where the closest thing to “vegetables” are often the french fries at the local McDonald’s. But with a head full of organic sensibility and quests for the most sustainable kale, it’s easy to ignore the cultural and social significance of these humble green carts.

Moveable Feast: Fresh Produce and the NYC Green Cart Program,” a photo-journalism exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, aims to highlight this oft-invisible part of city life. Five photographers spent a year exploring the lives of the independent green cart owners, their customers, and the neighborhoods they serve. The result is a stunning collection of photos and a bit of history. Most of the green cart photos were taken over the past few years throughout the five boroughs, but the exhibit also features a number of pictures, taken from various museum archives, from as early as 1895.

{Empty Vegetable Stand On Valentines Day, Looking East From 3rd Avenue & 110th Street, Will Steacy, New York, 2010}

The exhibit runs through August 22, and is absolutely worth a visit. Launched in 2008 by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the green cart program was designed to bring accessible fresh fruits and vegetables to communities where 12 percent of adults reported to not have eaten a fruit or vegetable the previous day, according to a DoHMH study.

The images remind us of the families that depend on the green carts for their health, and livelihoods. One collection of photos by photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier includes snapshots into the life of a green cart vendor who operated his cart 24 hours a day until he was beaten and robbed late one evening. Now, he depends on his brother and other family members to man the cart with him at all times. Another interesting anecdote includes the cut throat, but often unacknowledged competition between green cart operators and other food carts, like the Sabrett hot dog vendor. (In this case, the police favored the Sabrett vendor and the green cart operator in question was forced to move his cart onto a less busy block.)

{Will Steacy, McDonalds Drive-Thru Adjacent To Dominos Pizza, Looking Northeast From Jerome Avenue, Bronx, 2010}


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