How did you originally become a part of this program?
I would do the running group. Jim LoBianco came and spoke to our running group, which is ‘Back On My Feet,’ and he came to the Lawson (check spelling) House Y.M.C.A. and I said it’s something I’m interested in because I’m interested in the food culture and nutrition.
I had been a salesman. I was a mortgage broker before the financial collapse. So selling and interacting with people was never a problem. So I said let me just check it out and give it a try, see how it works. So basically I got introduced to the concept through Jim LoBianco who spoke to our running group.
How do you think the program has helped you with your career so far?
It gives me a way to do what I’ve always done which is to be of service to people. And so this is just a continuation of what I’ve done before. And it’s helped me becuase food is a vehicle for me to do that. By selling fresh fruit and substituting apples and oranges for Cheetos is what I want to do. Is serving. So this facilitates that for me becuase it just helps me do something good, you now, for the community and use my skills that way which is what I wanna do.
What all have you done before (job wise)?
I’ve been a mortgage broker. I’ve been a manager, a sales manager with a telemarketing company. I’ve been a work-release councilor in Baltimore City Work Needs program. I’ve been a drug rehabilitation councilor in NYC when I first got out of college, working with heroin addicts.
So I’ve always done a service type of orientation. So this is just an extension of that in another way which I think is important.
What college did you attend?
University of Wisconsin-Madison
How does your Neighborhood Cart benefit the community?
I think it benefits the community first of all [by] changing the eating paradigm from junk to something that’s wholesome and fresh. Particularly for younger people, is necessary. Absolutely necessary. The more we’re finding out about junk food, the more we need to grow fresh food and whole food. And, like I said, for me to participate in it—I feel very good about that.
I have a lot of young people that will come form Truman College and school aged kids in the summer. I try to tell them, ‘get away form the Cheetos,’ stuff like that. And they come buy it when they’re out of school or doing spring break which was last week.
And, I was very happy, when I came back, they were looking for me to buy strawberries and apples as opposed to potato chips. So it’s a fabulous thing.
How much management do you have over the cart?
Basically, we try to go with the concept that was put out, the model that was put out, by John. But within that model you can decide what products sell according to the people that you’re dealing with in the community. So if certain things sell more, then you ask for more of that. You’re managing the products on the cart. But the cart itself is basically the principle that was set up by John.
So you take inventory and that’s how it’s restocked?
By the end of the day, there isn’t that much left. So you say, ‘Well I need this, I need that.” If I get ten people that ask me for a particular item, then I’ll request that Item. I’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t go that well, then I don’t use anymore. It’s based on the market, the neighborhood, what they buy.
And then the good thing is you educate them to certain things like Pitaya. ‘What is a Pitaya? What is an Apple Pear. So I mean you’ve got different ethnic groups that have different foods and then you’re introducing those as well. Within that framework you do have flexibility with the product.
The most important thing is product knowledge. Becuase it’s with the product knowledge, like, I had a lady today that [says], ‘I gotta upset stomach, what should I do with it?
And I said, ‘Well, what is it?’ And she was describing a little bit and I said, “You need some lemons, you need citrus. You need lemons, you need oranges like that.’
So within that framework, we manage it.
Have you learned more about these kinds of products becuase of the cart program?
I try. The lady was asking me, today, about the Apple Pear, ‘How do we know when it’s good?’ So I said, ‘Well I don’t know, but I’ll find out and have an answer for you next week.’
It sort of propels me to educate myself, just to stay up with the product knowledge. So yeah, it helps me to find out more too, that way.