Providing Produce for Seniors
Not only do seniors who live in the Valley of The Sun live in a desert, many of them live in a food desert. That means supermarkets may be miles away from them and they have little access to fresh produce.
Diana Gregory recognizes the issue and is bringing fresh produce to them via her mobile farmer’s market, a service to seniors who may not have transportation to the supermarket or if they have health issues that keep them close to home.
“I work with a lot of seniors at independent living locations. They don’t have access to fresh produce,” she said. “We bring it to them. They are able to come down and purchase affordably priced fruits and vegetables.”
She said while they are purchasing the food from her non-profit business, they are given a little education about the nutritional benefits of what they are buying.
And by word-of-mouth, her customer list is growing and expanding into the thousands.
“The need does not stop with seniors. We now service South Central Phoenix,” she said. “We deliver to four locations a day. We go to these locations once a month,” she said.
The service has recently expanded to the Beatitudes campus where 550 independent living seniors reside.
And she does it all with five volunteers.
Gregory works closely with Peddler’s Son Produce, which provides the produce needed for a very low price.
“We provide about 30 different items of produce, especially in the summer,” she said.
Peddler’s Son also delivers to upscale resorts and restaurants, so the quality of the produce is superior, she said.
She set up her non-profit business, Diana Gregory Outreach Services, a little more than four years ago.
“I worked for Anheuser Busch for 30 years in retail sales,” she said. She was transferred seven times during her career from St. Louis to San Francisco and points in between. She was transferred to Phoenix in 2003.
“This was my last stop. I took an early retirement package four years ago,” she said. “It was an opportunity to take the package and not relocate any more. I was always interested in philanthropic work and giving back to the community,” she said.
“I went from being the Beer Lady to Produce Lady,” she said.
Gregory said some of the skills she garnered during her beer career were directly transferable to her new pursuits.
“I was always passionate about working with senior citizens and I thought about something to do with them for the second half of my life,” she said. “I always knew it would revolve around nutrition.”
She comes by it naturally. Her uncle is comedian Dick Gregory, who is also a civil rights activist and nutrition guru and her father is also passionate about eating right.
She said her vision from the beginning for her business was to expand health and wellness services in general and for senior citizens.
“We did a three-month program with Walgreen’s that provided professionals for blood pressure testing, general advice about nutrition and fitness, food demonstrations and juicing demonstrations” she said. “Not only did they (seniors) get the fresh produce, they were shown what they could do with it. We gave out 300 bags of fresh produce.”
In the future her goals for the program is providing more food demonstration, more fitness education and reaching more seniors.
“One out of seven seniors go to bed hungry because they have to choose between medications and food. They choose medication,” she said.
She said she knew of a lady who would eat a cheeseburger every night because she could get one for a dollar. Now she sees that woman enjoying fruits and vegetables.