New film follows efforts to bring fresh produce to New York's food deserts

New film follows efforts to bring fresh produce to New York's food deserts

The new documentary, "The Apple Pushers," tells the stories of five immigrant pushcart vendors who are providing fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods where fresh produce is unavailable and obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing.

The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund announced the launch of a national screening tour of THE APPLE PUSHERS, a new documentary film narrated by actor Edward Norton. THE APPLE PUSHERS follows the inspiring stories of five immigrant pushcart vendors who have joined a unique urban initiative that uses street vending as a means to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in New York City's food deserts – neighborhoods where finding a ripe, red apple is a serious challenge and where obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing.

These immigrant entrepreneurs, who hail from Ecuador, Russia, Mexico and Bangladesh, took to the streets as part of the NYC Green Cart Initiative, an innovative public-private strategy to increase access to nutritious food in low-income communities. This film tells their stories while chronicling the issues of food deserts, immigration, entry-level entrepreneurship and the pursuit of the American Dream.

The screening series began at the Hamptons International Film Festival (October 16), and will be followed by Mountainfilm Festival ( in New York (October 21), a Food Day screening in Boston at Babson College (October 24), and a special panel discussion to be webcast in Atlanta hosted by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation ( (November 2), moderated by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

There will also be a special New York screening (November 10). In 2012, the film will be screened more widely across the country, including a planned national television broadcast.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 23.5 million Americans currently live in food deserts, and the impact is most severe in urban and rural areas where poverty, access and health challenges go hand-in-hand. In cities across the country, streets are lined with fast food restaurants and convenience stores, but there are few grocery stores that sell fresh produce. In New York City alone, there are three million people living in food deserts. 

THE APPLE PUSHERS chronicles the effort by the City's Department of Health, community advocates and legislators to create an innovative approach to the food desert crisis and the associated rise in obesity and diet-related chronic diseases in New York City. Through the NYC Green Cart Initiative, the City approved a new type of street vending permit for vendors specifically selling vegetables and fruits in designated neighborhoods. Today, there are more than 500 Green Cart vendors throughout the city, and more than 800 jobs have been created.

"My hope is that THE APPLE PUSHERS can be a teaching tool that can raise public awareness about these issues and encourage innovative public/private partnerships in other cities and communities across the country," said Laurie M. Tisch, who is the Executive Producer of THE APPLE PUSHERS and whose foundation, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, provided the seed funding for the Green Cart Initiative.

Launched in 2008, the NYC Green Cart Initiative offers immediate steps that bring communities together through traditional "Mom-and-Pop" pushcarts where vendors and customers support entrepreneurship, community development and healthy living. Other cities are taking notice and piloting programs inspired by the NYC Green Cart Initiative. Earlier this year, Michelle Obama pledged to eradicate food deserts by 2017 with a joint plan among Walmart, Walgreens and SuperValu to open 1,500 new stores in the U.S.

Underwritten by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, THE APPLE PUSHERS is the latest film project from award-winning documentary filmmaker Mary Mazzio with producers Tom Scott and Christine Vachon. Laurie M. Tisch, president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, is the Executive Producer.

The film's trailer and more information can be found at


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