It is hard to imagine, but there are still areas of the United States that do not have access to the selection of groceries common in many supermarkets. For those of us who have lived in dense, urban areas, we know that fruits and vegetables outside of a can may be hard to find inside of liquor and corner convenience stores.
If residents of inner-cities or food deserts cannot go to the market because of prohibitive travel costs or time constraints, what is a health-conscious shopper to do? Luckily, there are some enterprising new businesses and non-profits that have decided that if the consumer cannot go to the produce section, then the produce section should come to them. Like many new, innovative ideas, these mobile markets are catching on! Some notable examples include:
MoGro: MoGro, or “Mobile Grocery Truck” is a pioneering food service program that provides fresh produce and other healthy and affordable foods to pueblo communities in New Mexico. Many tribal areas are known as “food deserts”, or locations that due to socioeconomic factors, are unable to access cheap, wholesome groceries. The truck arrives twice a month, and along with providing fruits and vegetables, holds nutrition workshops, cooking demonstrations and fitness initiatives. Residents of the pueblos are able to save both time and money by purchasing from the truck as well as being assured competitive prices. This may be a great development for neighborhoods across the country without a means of acquiring the products or information necessary to make informed decisions about their diets.
People’s Grocery: West Oakland residents can take advantage of People’s Grocery, whose motto is “Healthy food for everyone”. Along with offering food through a non-profit mobile operation, the Grocery has also been pursuing a for-profit community market in effort to promote food security in the East Bay. In accordance with their mission to engender healthy eating and purchasing habits, People’s Grocery supports local urban agriculture programs, hosts lectures and food demonstrations, maintains partnerships with social justice advocates, co-hosts urban farming festivals, runs a CSA (community supported agriculture) box, and even makes it possible to buy groceries at wholesale prices through collective buying. Their Growing Justice Institute hopes to work with national leaders to establish a network of food equity leaders.
Fresh Moves: In a partnership with Architecture for Humanity, Chicago food desert dwellers of the Lawndale and Austin areas have since March been visited by Fresh Moves. Their vehicle of choice is a retrofitted bus, kindly donated by the Chicago Transit Authority that stops twice a week in several neighborhood locations. They have established several sponsorships with Chicago businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and schools. This “one aisle” grocery store hopes to find a quick, targeted solution to the health problems most commonly seen in urban areas, such as diabetes, obesity, malnutrition and heart disease.
Is there a mobile grocery unit in your neighborhood? Have you ever been caught in a food desert? Are grocery trucks viable long-term solutions for healthy food distribution challenges?