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Valley woman provides fresh food to seniors and veterans, fulfilling lifelong dream

Diana Gregory
Posted at 4:44 AM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 07:42:30-05

PHOENIX — A Valley woman is not only reaping what she sows -- she's finding a way to take action for people in need, delivering fresh fruits and vegetables to people all over the Valley.

Rows and rows of crops to harvest, irrigation lines, and cabbage the size of your head! It's not exactly what you'd expect to see just a few miles south of Downtown Phoenix. It's also not where you'd imagine finding a former top-level executive, but for Diana Gregory, there's no place she'd rather be.

"Coming out to the farm is very relaxing for me," Gregory explains. "This is really a labor of love. I wish I had more time."

It's easy to get distracted by the bounties of broccoli, the super-sized cabbage, and those overflowing collard greens, but make no mistake about it - a dream is sprouting from this soil -- and it's one that Gregory has cultivated for most of her life.

"I was a little girl with a vision. I was 8 years old, and one of my neighbors, Miss Fannie, had just returned from the grocery store and she was struggling trying to carry her bags and no one flinched to help her...At that time, as a little girl, I realize how seniors were treated. Sometimes neglected. Sometimes overlooked. And I made a vow at 8 years old that I wanted to do something on a big scale to really help seniors."

And that's exactly what Diana is doing with Gregory's Fresh Market, a non-profit that brings healthy fruits and vegetables to Valley seniors at no cost to them.

In Phoenix, there's more of a need than you may realize. More than 40% of residents live in food deserts according to the city. As Phoenix makes efforts to try to change that, so is Diana.

RELATED: Community leaders look to elected officials, legislators to help combat food deserts

"It's like a gift. The gift of nutrition."

And this gift isn't just for seniors. In November, we tagged along with Gregory's Fresh Market as they delivered care packages to veterans at the Phoenix VA. Kenny Kessel, an Army veteran, was one of the more than 200 veterans to receive fresh off the farm produce.

"I'm on a budget," Kessel explains. "I'm on disability and every dollar counts."

For volunteers like Ricky and Ruben, it's more than just a way to give back. As veterans themselves, it's about sacrifice, fulfilling their sense of duty, and honoring the brave men and women who served just like them.

"Vets put in so much work and they've given so much," explains Ricky. "So it's nice to be able to give back to them."

"It feels amazing," Ruben tells us. "Especially being in and out of the battlefield with these guys and coming back home and serving healthy fruits especially in time of a pandemic."

And because of the pandemic, Gregory's Fresh Market has had to pivot, becoming a delivery service. We followed volunteers to one of their drop-offs at the Tanner Terrace Apartments in Glendale.

That's where we met Martha Anderson. She tells us the bags of produce are her lifeline.

"It means the difference between a meal and starving," she says.

Martha also has diabetes. That means she's constantly monitoring her blood sugar and needs to have a steady supply of food in her apartment. She tells us that's a lot harder than it used to be.

"This is my means of transportation. So I can't jump in my car anymore and go to Walmart."

These fruits and veggies from Gregory's Fresh Market may not solve all of Martha's problems, but inside each bag, she seems more than just produce -- she also finds hope.

"People wouldn't realize how important a bag of vegetables is. And fruit is. But it is a blessing and it's a meal...especially today."

For Diana, it's a full-circle moment that takes her back to that time when she was a little girl with a big dream.

"It makes me feel like we're making a difference," she explains. "It's just so heart-warming to give back on such a big scale."

And to think, it all started with a handful of seeds, the unrelenting drive to serve, and a dream she refused to let go of until she could see it blossom into what it is today.

But Diana is quick to point out, she can't do it all alone. She has a team of volunteers and also receives a large amount of the produce she gives out from Peddler's Son Produce. Her farm, located at Spaces of Opportunity, also provides her the space to grow her own produce. And Legacy Place helps with office space where boxes can be assembled.

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