A Farmers Market on the Move in North Carolina
Many people in Rowan County, N.C., don’t have access to healthy foods – so Jon Barber, a local food advocate and farmers market owner, is bringing the fruits and vegetables to them. A non-profit venture in the county trucks a mobile farmers market to food deserts, giving people who have little to no transportation options the opportunity to buy healthy foods, sometimes right outside of their homes. Because of Barber’s passion for local food and how it can grow a local economy and improve the overall health of citizens, it’s a grassroots community effort that involves the faith-based community, health care providers, and many others.
Mobile Farm Fresh of North Carolina is a mobile farmers market and educational resource center designed to restore healthy food access to communities who do not have access to fresh, affordable, sustainable food. USDA, Treasury and HHS have defined a food desert, in part, as a census tract with a substantial share of residents who live in low-income areas that have low levels of access to a grocery store or healthy, affordable food retail outlet.
“In these communities, they have a lack of transportation,” said Barber, the founder and chairman of Mobile Farm Fresh and also a county commissioner. “It’s not that they don’t want to eat healthy but they don’t have the access to do it.”
The effort benefited from assistance from the Roadmaps to Health Action Center, including personal guidance from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps community coaches, resources for using the County Health Rankings data, and more.
Mobile Farm Fresh soon could be even further living up to its name; Barber said the group is applying for funding to convert a city transit bus into a truly mobile farmers market (tailored after an initiative in Chicago). Customers would board the bus and buy produce right inside the vehicle. Now, the mobile markets are set up as stands in parking lots in various locations such as housing complexes. The bus would allow quicker service to more areas. The mobile market also includes an educational resource center to encourage healthy eating, including recipes and product information (speakers and a working farm project are part of offerings in the works). The current mobile markets, with stops in six locations over four days, routinely sell out.
“They know we’re going to be there, so they can plan to shop and eat healthier,” Barber said.