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For Chinatown's Oldest Residents, a Mobile Market Brings Back the Bok Choy

The initiative helps ease the challenge of buying fresh Asian produce.
The mobile market brings a variety of fruits, vegetables, and meat that are popular among Chinatown's immigrant population.
The mobile market brings a variety of fruits, vegetables, and meat that are popular among Chinatown's immigrant population.Emily Jan/The Atlantic

WASHINGTON, D.C.—By the time 83-year-old Lee Qi Qi and her neighbor, Dick Wong, 82, arrive at the farmer’s market in front of their Wah Luck House apartments on Sixth and H Street, the place is packed. A crowd of 20 to 30 of Chinatown’s elderly Chinese-American residents brace the chilly morning. They pick through the crates of peppers, onions, and bok choy that workers from Arcadia Farms—a Virginia-based nonprofit that brings local produce to low-income communities through mobile markets—have neatly arranged on folding tables. Bilingual signs help the patrons, who mainly speak Mandarin and Cantonese, navigate the varieties.

Lee takes a shopping basket and heads straight for the sweet potatoes, picking them up one at a time and giving each a gentle squeeze to make sure it’s firm. Wong, meanwhile, goes for the crates of apples. He examines each one, careful not to pick any that seem bruised.