By David Madden

MARLTON, NJ (CBS) — You might not think about hitting a farmer’s market in the dead of winter, but a traveling market run through a South Jersey based health system is doing a robust business.

Suzanne Ghee is a Vice President at Virtua Health who came up with the idea during a state legislature hearing on food needs in poorer areas. The effort, a first in New Jersey, launched last May.

“We had set a goal for 12 months to serve 6,000 families in South Jersey,” Ghee told KYW Newsradio, “and in just seven months we surpassed 7 thousand families.”

They’ve provided almost 30,000 pounds of fresh produce, at reduced prices, to locations throughout Camden and Burlington Counties. Dietitians also travel on the produce bus to give advice on good nutrition.

So how does a hospital get into selling fruits and veggies out of a bus?

“We were fortunate enough to partner with Whole Foods where we source the produce from them,” Ghee added. “We buy it from them at wholesale pricing and then, as a community benefit initiative, Virtua discounts this produce by 40 to 50% so that we can make the produce very affordable to our communities that need it the most.”

The market also allows for half price payments for people enrolled in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

The bus makes several regular stops each week. And stops have been added on occasion at more than a dozen local schools and non profits, mostly in Camden, where kids can sample the produce for free.

Among the regular weekly stops are:

– Roosevelt Plaza Park in Camden
– Burlington City Public Works Department
– Virtua Center for Women in Lumberton
– Winslow Shopping Center in Sicklerville
– Woodlane Square Shopping Center in Westampton
– Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care in Cherry Hill

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