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Improving Food Access Through Mobile Markets
July 3, 2019
Written by Ashley Guenard
Access to fresh food is something many take for granted. Economically disadvantaged neighborhoods are less likely to have food options that support healthy eating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that when healthy, fresh foods are not easily available, families will likely settle for processed foods that are high in calories, low in nutritional value, and linked to many chronic health issues.
Mobile farmers markets are popping up throughout the state in hopes of increasing access to fresh, local produce in areas where there are no supermarkets and limited reliable transportation. The vendors sell in various locations to assist vulnerable populations near Title 1 schools, low-income housing sites, Md. Department of Aging meal sites, and senior centers. Traveling markets go one step further by taking fruits and vegetables to those who need it most in order to close the gap on health disparities that often come with limited access to healthy foods.
In addition to cash, some of these markets accept federal nutrition benefits like food stamps, farmers’ market coupons and WIC vouchers. Many of these sites have nutrition education components so shoppers can ask questions and learn ways to prepare, store, and preserve fresh produce. Here are three mobile markets that are working to provide access to local food:
Arcadia’s Mobile Market: In Washington D.C., nearly a quarter of all residents are considered low-income, and many live in healthy food priority areas with few nutritious, affordable food options. Arcadia’s Mobile Market is establishing a more equitable system of distributing food and nutrition education in communities throughout D.C..
Real Food Farm: Based in Baltimore, Real Food Farm strives to improve food access by focusing on three main concepts: pricing, proximity, and familiarity. Real Food Farm distributes fresh produce to residents by setting up market stops or making home deliveries. They think up creative ways to keep produce affordable for residents as ways to combat areas that have extremely low food access.
Washington County: Western Maryland hopes to set up a new Mobile Farmers Market in the Hagerstown area. The director of this exciting project is Mary McPherson who works as the Program Manager in Health Planning and Strategic Initiatives division for the Washington County Health Department. The Department is currently seeking vendors interested in selling produce at this mobile farmers market.