Mobile Farmers Markets to Enrich Low-Income Neighborhoods

The average American meal travels roughly 1,500 miles from farm to table. That may be changing for many urban areas where local food initiatives and community garden programs are gaining support at even the municipal level. However, thousands of mostly low-income communities across the country remain “food deserts,” or neighborhoods and communities where there is little or no access to fresh, healthy foods—including grocery stores. Often, the primary sources of food in these areas come from gas stations and fast food chains, where foodstuffs are generally high in calories and low in nutrition—not to mention more energy intensive, chemical-dependent, and typically without cultural relevance. Whereas farmers’ markets and small groceries can be wonderful places to foster a sense of community and well-being, food deserts generally lack both.

Well, the latest in a line of creative local food access solutions is the “New Jersey Fresh Mobiles Initiative,” part of a state-wide bill that would use mobile farmers markets to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to designated food deserts across the state. Farmers’ markets are popular in affluent areas where there is more money to spend on local specialty produce and value-added products, but the bill is unique because it would support the use of government-issued food vouchers as payment. The initiative would not only open up a new world of tasty fruits veggies (they are tastier and more nutritious when local) to inner city kids and residents but also create new markets for many regional farmers, who are struggling to stay on the land.