How a nurse turned her love of gardening into a mission of compassion

Posted at 8:05 PM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-26 20:20:02-04

CINCINNATI -- Three years ago, nurse Laura Olexa turned her love of gardening into a passionate mission to help the "food desert" she calls home.

In Fairmount, where Olexa lives, many residents are dependent on public transportation, and the closest grocery store is three miles away -- far enough that walking can be a challenge. Communities like these, where nutritious fresh fruit and vegetables are hard for residents to access, are known by the United States Food and Drug Administration as food deserts. 

Olexa is determined to bring mana to that desert in the form of Veggies Via Vespa. She grows fresh produce ranging from lettuce to bananas in her garden and distributes it to the community on her trusty Italian scooter.

"People recognize me when I go through," she said. "They say, ‘Oh, there's the Vespa girl' or ‘Hey, do you have any produce?' … It's just amazing how a little work can feed so many people."

In her first year, Olexa grew close to 300 pounds of produce for her community. Next year, she wants to aim higher: 400. 

She also wants to take requests from her consumers and grow the foods they most want to eat. 

"To have fresh fruits and vegetables, it's a big plus," Fairmount resident Lisa Hyde-Miller said. "It's a need that's been going on for a long time."