Making fresh produce conveniently available to people in food deserts is an idea whose time has thankfully come.
In Grand Central Terminal there is a fancy food market where commuters can grab fresh groceries before hopping on the train back to the suburbs. It is the model of convenience and one that could be adapted to commuters of all stripes, not just those needing fresh delicacies on the way back to Westchester County.
Which is why the new mini-trend of bus-stop farmer’s markets is so great.
In forlorn neighborhoods of towns like Dayton, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky, farmer’s markets are popping up around transit centers to make fresh produce not only available where it once wasn’t, but convenient as well. While many of us have the luxury of local farmer’s markets and supermarkets with loads of produce options, “food deserts” – under-served neighborhoods with little or no access to fresh food – are a serious problem in this country.
As Brian Barth writes on Modern Farmer:
“Food deserts” – low-income neighborhoods with plenty of quickie marts and liquor stores, but lacking full service grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables—are an epidemic in American cities, affecting 23.5 million people. The USDA has several ways of defining food deserts, but the common denominator is that most residents in these neighborhoods lack a car to go buy food in other neighborhoods that have legitimate grocery stores. In other words, food desert residents are reliant on public transportation, which is difficult to navigate with a family’s worth of grocery bags in hand, so they make do with what’s available at the corner store.
By bringing fresh food to bus stops and public transportation hubs, people are given an easy, sensible way to shop for fresh food. It's like meeting shoppers halfway.
Barth writes about examples of this type of initiative. Dayton’s version is a parternship between the county government and a homeless service organization – and does double duty as it also employs and trains homeless folks.
Tampa, Florida is running a pilot program set up by Tampa’s transit authority, HART, together with the local non-profit Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful – with a nice grant of $98,000 from the USDA. Educational materials show how to cook and grow things at home, and EBT payments are accepted.
Atlanta, Georgia has a farmer’s market at a subway stop in a neighborhood where half of the residents live below the poverty line.
In Louisville, in a neighborhood where one in four people are without work and the median family income is just above $20,000, the largest “food hub” in the nation is set to break ground this year, Barth writes. “The 24-acre, $50 million West Louisville FoodPort will not only provide access to fresh food for nearby residents, it’s expected to generate more than 300 jobs and provide workforce training in an effort to build up the local food economy.”
There are just so many things to love about this and it's heartening to see municipal and even federal agencies recognizing the importance of accessibility when it comes to produce. How this fertile country came to be a place where fresh fruits and vegetables are a luxury reserved for the better-off is tragic, but change is coming, one pop-up bus-stop farm stand at a time.
Via Modern Farmer